The National Assembly this week agreed to investigate the Central Procurement Board of Namibia’s tender-awarding processes, including the legal framework.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) lawmaker Nico Smit tabled a motion in parliament last month calling for an investigation into the procurement process.
The aim of the investigation is to uncover any areas that require improvement, notably in the area of due diligence, to regain the public’s confidence and trust in the procurement board.
While motivating the topic titled ‘All Aspects of the Procedures Dictating Tender Awarding Process of the CPBN’ in parliament, Smit said the CPBN has been at the centre of widespread public debate and controversy.
Following a public outcry, the procurement board was forced to withdraw N$650 million health supply tender this year.
Amnics Trading was to be awarded a multimillion-dollar two-year contract to procure clinical products worth N$400 million for surgical gloves and N$111 million for condoms and other medical supplies.
It was part of the health ministry’s N$2,8 billion health tender.
As such, Smit said it was critical that the procurement board not only receives priority at the highest level, but that it is also reviewed and enhanced on a regular basis.
“The Central Procurement Board of Namibia is a gate of sorts for taxpayers’ money, for which we’ve been charged to act as custodians, to ensure value for every dollar, and to meet the needs of the Namibian people,” he said.
“We read allegations of the manipulation of the procurement process to allow for emergency procurement, and we hear of extensive and widespread non-compliance, without consequence,” said Smit.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula has backed the investigation.
He said a large portion of his ministry’s budget is allocated for the procurement of clinical supplies, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.
Shangula said most of the health ministry’s procurement activities are managed by the CPBN since they exceed the N$25 million threshold stipulated by the Public Procurement Act of 2015.
The motion on all legal aspects of the CPBN’s tender awarding process will now be referred to the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts for further scrutiny.
Acting parliament spokesperson Raphael Hangula told The Namibian on Wednesday once a motion is adopted, it signifies that the assembly has agreed to do or implement what the motion requests.
He said the relevant committee will decide how to address the proposal.
This could involve calling the CPBN board of directors and management to appear before the committee to answer questions, as well as holding public hearings before reporting back to the house for a decision.
Meanwhile, Smit, a member of the public accounts committee, informed The Namibian on Wednesday that the committee will request the auditor general’s office handle the investigation.
The lawmaker has committed to seeing the investigation through and has said that after the committee receives the auditors’ findings, he will propose a public hearing.
“Before we submit the report to the National Assembly, I will sort of propose we have a public hearing.
“Summon the procurement board for a public hearing, and we will question them,” Smit said.
“The reason I will demand a public hearing is that when it is a public hearing, they are under oath. They took the oath, and if they lie, we will charge them for perjury.”
Auditor general Junias Kandjeke told The Namibian last month that other parliaments have put mechanisms in place to ensure accountability in the public sector.
He cited Kenya, which established an implementation committee in its parliament.
Other countries like Uganda and Ghana have gone to extremes where public officials can be arrested during public hearings for failing to account, he said.
“But with us, I think what should be done is for people to be serious with their work. We don’t want to arrest people and make them afraid, but they must just do their work and account,” he said.