Comprehensive re-assessment of Namibia’s public procurement system amidst criticism

Niël Terblanché

The Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprise, in conjunction with the World Bank and the African Development Bank, has commenced an extensive assessment of Namibia’s procurement system.

According to Wilson Shikoto, the spokesperson of the fiancé ministry, this initiative, executed through the Methodology for Assessing Procurement Systems (MAPS), strives to fortify transparency, accountability, and value for money in Namibia’s public procurement practices.

It’s been three years since the last review of the public procurement process. This new examination comes after prevalent criticism and is considered an imperative step towards the refinement of the Public Procurement Act 2015. Critics argue that the Act has served as an instrument for corruption, with various instances noted where tenders have been awarded to companies linked to public officials or those offering bribes.

The launch workshop that initiated the assessment process was inaugurated by Deputy Minister of Finance and Public Enterprises, Maureen Hinda-Mbuende on 13 September 2023.

The workshop acquainted 68 active participants, encompassing key stakeholders, with the MAPS methodology, the anticipated assessment roadmap, and the analytical framework based on four foundational pillars: legal and policy frameworks, institutional framework and management capacity, system operations and market competitiveness, and the transparency, integrity, and accountability of the procurement system.

The Public Procurement Act 2015 has been sharply criticized for being a potential tool for corruption, with delays in awarding tenders, unqualified companies receiving tenders, and the cancellation of tenders, post-award being major points of contention.

The Namibian business community in the past have repeatedly complained about the Act’s complexity and time-consuming nature.

Critics of the Act have rallied for amendments, stating that it impedes economic development by disproportionately favouring large companies and hindering SMEs from participating effectively in the procurement process.

The Act is also condemned for escalating the costs of public goods and services and obstructing the execution of infrastructure projects.

The assessment, which will conclude by July 2024, seeks to assist the Government of Namibia in devising a reformed public procurement strategy, aligning with international best practices and core principles of transparency, accountability, and value for money.

This endeavour is a step forward in addressing the perceived lack of transparency and accountability, and the allegations of the Act being a conduit for corruption.

The Ministry aims to attain increased efficiency and effectiveness within the public procurement system, contributing to the broader developmental objectives of the country. The process involves meticulous data collection from varied sources and subsequent validation workshops to assess the findings prior to the report’s finalization.

According to Shikoto, stakeholder engagement is fundamental for the success of this mission.

The assessment will foster technical discussions and will introduce the task team to the key stakeholders.

“It is through such robust dialogues and technical discussions that more holistic and comprehensive insights into the existing procurement system can be garnered,” Shikoto said.

According to Shikoto, the collaboration and ensuing assessment are steps towards a more equitable, transparent, and efficient procurement system.

The commitment of the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprise, coupled with the expertise of international development organizations, augurs well for substantial reforms that can propel the nation’s economic development forward, addressing long-standing concerns and fostering a more inclusive and fair procurement environment.

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