What causes corrupt practices during public procurement?   


Public and political expectations for effective service delivery put public procurement under intense scrutiny .Public procurement is an activity of purchasing the goods and services which a government needs to carry out its functions. Other scholars use different terminology to mean the same concept. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) uses the term government procurement and the United States uses the term public contracts or government contracts. Public procurement is central to government service delivery as it often involves large sums of money.

Some of the most apparent challenges are highlighted below.

 Lack of political will and vested interests

Vested interests can manifest themselves through local business cartels in which the private sector and their collaborators in the public institutions benefit from such flawed systems. Where a procurement system is loose, there are opportunities for abuse of the tender process through patronage and corruption.  Access to public contracts in developing countries serves as a means in most cases of financing political parties and to reward political party supporters. In the absence of political will, recommendations can be made, draft laws discussed and position papers made but no action may be made to implement changes proposed.


Also Read: Tender Opportunities at United Nations


Awarding contracts to foreign firms

Foreign companies who do not employ locals and have foreign interests do significant projects like Kariba expansion and Hwange.

 Lack of knowledge and capacity

Although Zimbabwe appears to have some modern legal public procurement frameworks, some political bureaucrats may lack the knowledge of good procurement practices and procedures and yet occupying influential positions in the procuring entities.

Type of legal instrument

 Scholars have observed that common law countries which have inherited a procurement system based on the United Kingdom (UK) model like Zimbabwe, it is the type of juridical instrument that the reforms should put in place to regulate public procurement. The UK historically, regulated public procurement by means of a set of regulations. While this has changed with most of the procurement in UK being governed by the European Union Directives on Procurement, most developing countries that have the UK based model such as Zimbabwe, have maintained this basic structure. This has proven to be problematic because such regulations apply mainly to central government. This leaves local authorities and state owned enterprises to create their own systems of procurement.

Legal enforcement

In Zimbabwe, the flagrant abuse of the procurement system is largely due to the fact that there is hardly any consistent enforcement of the rules and regulations. The procurement entities pretend to comply with procurement procedures while in actual fact compromising the spirit of the rules. The public officials and their accomplices severely compromise the systems because they have no fear of retribution if ever it comes. What is prevalent is advertising bids for a very short time so that just a few potential bidders get the opportunity and this reduces competition against their favorites who might have known about the coming advert well in advance. The fact that conflict of interest is covered under law, the law is not enforced in practice. For that reason, public officials still award tenders to themselves through a third party. In some cases, they award contracts to companies that are non-existent.

The evaluation committee: Section 14 of the Procurement Regulations (Zimbabwe Government 2002) states that the accounting officers must appoint members of procurement committees, but it is not explicit regarding the number or composition of procurement committees. It has been found that in the entities these committees comprise between 5 and 20 members; however, a significant number lack knowledge of procurement processes, resulting in incomprehensive tender evaluations. In addition, it was found that the evaluation criteria used for evaluating tenders focus on meeting minimum specifications, which results in tenders being awarded to non-performing tenderpreneurs who have mastered the art of responding to tender documents but have little or no capacity to meet contract requirements. This results in late completion and/ or non-completion of projects and delivery of substandard products and service

Indigenisation policy

There need to comply with the indigenization policy resulted in tenders being awarded to incompetent companies.

Written By: Arnold Mutamiri

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