The Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) is fast-tracking amendments to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act to align it to the Constitution and promote the principles of transparency and accountability, CEO Clever Ruswa has said.
He said several sections in the country’s public sector procurement law, which was passed into law in 2017 but came into operation in 2018 as part of government’s public financial management reforms, were not promoting the principles of transparency, accountability, integrity, efficiency, fairness, cost effectiveness and competitiveness and public confidence in public procurement and the disposal of public property.
Some, Ruswa said, were inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
There were also gaps identified during the implementation of the Act. These include the presents of the Auditor General, who sits on the Special Procurement Oversight Committee (SPOC), Section 3 (6) of Cap 22:23, Section 15 Authorisation to Conduct Procurement by Procuring entities, Section 55 (2) (Contract Award), Section 100 (Application of Act to joint ventures of Cap 22:23 and the addition of youths and women in the Act, among many other sections earmarked for amendments.
Ruswa said the amendments will streamline bottlenecks identified over the past five years.
“There were gaps identified during the implementation of the Act. We are fast racking the process to amend the Act. We hope the process will be completed before the end of this year,” he said.
The auditor-general, Mildred Chiri, will be removed from the SPOC which scrutinises procurement contracts, due to conflict of interest.
The chair of SPOC is the attorney general and deputised by the accountant general.
The auditor general, Chiri, and the principal director at Public Works are part of the Committee.
The autonomy of auditors in the performance of their professional duties has always been considered a cornerstone of their profession.
Auditors are expected to submit independent opinions.
But, in this respect, Chiri’s presence in SPOC, gives rise to conflict of interest as she would come back and audit the books of procuring entities which use public funds, which calls for transparency to ensure that the government gets the best terms and value for money.
Ruswa disclosed that the authority was working on closing some gaps especially on SPOC, in which Chiri is part of.
Procurement is a strategic tool in public services delivery hence the need to modernise the process.
It is estimated that the magnitude of government expenditure is between 20% and 25% of the ZWL$4.5 trillion 2023 National Budget.
The Act abolished the State Procurement Board, which was the supervisor and responsible for making procurement decisions.
It created PRAZ, which is no longer involved in the adjudication and awarding of tenders like before.
The awarding of tenders is now being done by accounting officers in various State departments and companies, with PRAZ only playing a supervisory and monitoring role to ensure government entities comply with the Act and other set standards.
Public sectors are supposed to establish procurement management units which are supposed to be manned by licensed professional procurement officers in terms of the Act.
But, the progress on the implementation of the legislation had been lagging with some government entities turning a blind eye on the employment of the Act.