(CNS): Government’s new procurement bill, which is expected to be debated in the Legislative Assembly next month will depend on the development of expertise in the civil service to make it work, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has stated. The draft legislation introduces what has been described as a comprehensive and accountable regime for the purchase of goods and services by all government entities. While it introduces a specialist office, a committee, new rules and guidelines, codes of conduct and much more to tighten up what is considered to be a major risk area for the public purse, Manderson said skills were central to its success.
“Although the law is important to underpin this function, the success of the new regime will depend on improving the procurement expertise across the public service. I am pleased that the Ministry of Finance will have trained more than 100 civil servants by the end of 2016 in the provisions of the new law,” Manderson said in a government release about the new law.
Public procurement accounts for the next biggest chunk of public spending after civil servants’ pay and benefits. Procurement amounts to around 27 per cent of CIG’s annual budget and the new law is designed to help government improve efficiency, save money and be more accountable about where the money goes and why, as well as who it goes to.
“Broader in scope than simple purchasing, procurement requires long-term strategic thinking to assure citizens that public money is well spent,” government officials said.
The new regime includes establishing clear rationales for business purchases on a case-by-case basis, the management of risk, market analysis, transparency and value for money.
The new law will affect all public spending initiatives by government chief officers, heads of department and suppliers to government and it has mechanisms to limit unilateral tendering and enhance regulatory compliance in an effort to address the existing wasteful practices, lack of transparency, corruption, political interference, fraud risks and the skills gap.
The goal is to improve expertise by employing procurement professionals to supervise and monitor the process while encouraging increased oversight, consistency, value for money, fair-dealing and accountability.
The law also proposes to limit political involvement at policy level by restricting procurement decisions to public officials. Over the years procurement has been seen as a political tool, with the community almost expecting government to award contracts to supporters. With the technical boards usually loaded with political cronies rather than experts in a particular field, the perception of corruption has loomed large for decades.
The new law establishes a public procurement committee which will oversee the purchases government departments make and the eight members will be chosen by the governor in consultation with the premier, the opposition leader and the deputy governor, and it will include private sector expertise.
Government suppliers will also be required to toe the procurement line and they will need to adhere to a written code of conduct. Any supplier that provides false information, offers an inducement or gratuity to public officials or enters into lobbying will be disqualified from participating in public procurement for a period of time or permanently.
Finance Minister Marco Archer said the strengthening of the procurement regime would cut costs and improve the overall regime and said the country should welcome the legislation.