The World Bank (WB) is now unwilling to bankroll Zimbabwe’s electronic government (e-government) procurement project, meant to enhance the State procurement process as well as plug loopholes, in a fresh setback for plans to eliminate rampant corruption bedevilling the country’s public procurement system, it has emerged.
Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) CEO, Clever Ruswa, said the government was now committing resources from fiscus for the project.
“WB pledged some resources to support the e-government project. But, it’s no longer seeing it as a priority. So, we have been forced by the situation to commit internal resources. Government has now taken over the project. We have floated an expression of interest and 17 bidders have responded so far,” Ruswa said.
Business Times can report that in 2017, WB floated a tender to develop Zimbabwe’s e-government project. A British firm, Crown Agency won the bid ahead of several other companies to develop the project, to be bankrolled by the WB.
Crown Agents, which advises government around the world in international trade, procurement, finance and institutional development, announced plans to complete the project in two years.
But, WB reneged on the plan this year, according to Ruswa.
Given that public procurement plays a significant role in the economy, it is critical for the government to take advantage of the continuous improvements coming from the internet to make procurement of goods and services more efficient through electronic means.
Adopting e-procurement would result in the government drastically altering the way it interacts with suppliers of goods and services.
In fact, the e-government procurement system removes the human interface as humans are bound to be corrupted when dealing with bidders.
This effectively means that any tender of goods and services shall be taken up only via the e-procurement process. The system would ensure that submission tenders by bidders and evaluations of tenders would be done online, a move that would change the face of public procurement in Zimbabwe.
It will connect all State entities on one portal, curbing corruption which is rampant within the sector.
The e-system is also aimed at reducing bureaucratic procedures, unwarranted delays and inefficiencies which ultimately become a fertile ground for uncontrolled corruption and other forms of malpractices within the public procurement system that diminish efficiency in public service delivery, at the expense of the ordinary Zimbabweans.
Failure to implement the electronic system has resulted in severe consequences. According to several reports by the Auditor General, the procurement of goods by State-owned entities violated procurement contracts and is being down in the absence of approved procurement plans in most cases.
PRAZ, which was established in 2018 under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act [Chapter 22:23], which repealed the Procurement Act [Chapter 22:14] and dissolved the State Procurement Board, regulates the public procurement proceedings to ensure transparency, fairness, honesty, cost-effectiveness and competition.
Ruswa said the e-procurement system was critical as it will address historical loopholes in the current public procurement system and will ensure fairness, honesty, cost effectiveness and competition.
It will also bring in efficiency and enhance transparency.
The system will also result in increased disclosures of procurement data, monitoring and oversight of procurement activities and increased participation.
The e-government procurement system will also strengthen public financial management, meaning that there will be availability of real time expenditure data and improved service delivery to the citizens.
Statistics will also be available to the government on how it is spending money and reducing government procurement costs