By Shingirai Vambe
Following rising reports of corruption backed by the extravagant lifestyles exhibited by most Procurement Management Officers, Permanent Secretaries and Accounting Officers of various entities and ministries have approached the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe requesting a thorough investigation into this growing trend .
Accounting officers said the PMU are fast becoming known for corruption, demanding kick-backs and money to facilitate orders as well as living large at the expense of struggling company and masses as it affects the consumer or end user because of costs.
PRAZ engagements as scheduled on its annual calendar are ongoing which include training as well as aligning operations with information obtained from stakeholders on critical areas of Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets in Zimbabwe. The authority met with the banking, education and health sectors in Harare from Monday to Wednesday, last week, interfaced with Local Authorities, (Town Clerks and CEOs) and Permanent Secretaries on Thursday and Friday in Kadoma, respectively.
All the five groups that engaged with the Authority said they are not directly involved in the processes hence their signatures create fertile ground for grand corruption and flaws.
PRAZ CEO, Clever Ruswa told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that time for school boy errors is over as the Authority is putting in place systems that penalise officers to the extent of deducting money from their salaries and or take punitive measures that exonerate Accounting Officers.
Director Operations, Benson Share also highlighted that PRAZ will soon issue out the National Market Price Index, that will guide various entities and the PMUs against fly by night suppliers who forward price goods and services to Government and its entities.
“We are working with the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) to help come up with a price index of goods in the market, this will help in dealing with officers as well as suppliers who want to overcharge goods in the market. The system will allow organizations to flexibly procure at a discrepancy value of between +-5-10%,” said Share.
A consultant who was hired to conduct the training, Paul Kalumba from Uganda highlighted that suppliers have a habit of charging for goods and services differently depending on who is procuring.
“Because they know it’s Government buying, the price is inflated due to a number of issues including delays in payments.
“The trainings have been received with a lot of enthusiasm; it’s very rare with senior officers attending to such trainings from the beginning to the end. I am impressed by the turn up and the level of interest,” said Kalumba.
In Zimbabwe a number of people have been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) whilst some got suspended for abuse of office because of the flawed procurement processes and many believe that PRAZ does so to settle personal scores or is plainly bend on ensuring that they go behind bars.
Most of the invited teams asked intriguing questions, parading an eagerness to learn, however, some were seen sleeping whilst others were busy playing games and on social media, taking advantage of the free wifi ignoring their core business.
The Authority was established in 2018, and the Act in August 2021, the consultative meeting has seen the Authority looking into a number of issues relating to its systems and areas which needed adjustment to meet the needs of PMU and suppliers.
During the workshop, PRAZ members confirmed with senior officers that majority in PMU offices only have paper qualifications and needed more engagements programmes and training. The Authority has also urged interested members to make use of the free e-learning facility that is on its portal page as it will soon be paid for.
Local Authorities and Health officers highlighted the need to put in place a facility for suppliers in various districts who are not registered with PRAZ yet offering quality services and for the Authority to engage with Public works as majority of the projects undertaken after awarding tenders are affected because of unprofessional conduct by Public works team.
A doctor from United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH), said there are 18 pending planned projects for the hospital that have been put on hold because of Public works.
Share told all the 5 groups that as accounting officers, the training was organized to hold PMUs accountable as majority of them lie of the delays or rejection are made by PRAZ yet its them who would have delayed or done half-baked process which in most cases leads to rejection or review.
They however questioned the period at which the process is done, especially given the multi-currency environment, where time is money, the more the Rtgs payment is delayed, the faster it is likely to be eroded by inflation once and again leading to failed supply or getting a reduced number of goods. Many have failed to supply goods they purport to be suppliers off, while other have supplied substandard goods because of inflation and some, purely incompetence.
The purchase of sub-standard goods lies within PMU officers who would have assisted in sourcing the product, motivated by the sole aim of getting a kick back from the facilitation and ultimately benefit by all means necessary.
PRAZ CEO mentioned that they will always find a way to eradicate inconcistences thriving within the system. However he pointed out that engagement is key to close all loopholes in existence within the authority ‘s operations.
Permanent secretaries and Local Authorities said those who claim to be suppliers have dismally failed yet they continue to get awards especially suppliers of vehicles adding that those companies or individuals must be blacklisted with PRAZ enacting a system that will automatically remove their participation from the business market.
“Put in place a system, that works together with the registrar of companies, this will make it easier for us to identify fly by night suppliers. the system should bar them from operating as they disadvantage lots of ministries and individuals without being known, they should be red flagged said delegates in Kadoma.
In March the Authority will meet with bidders, suppliers and contractors to exchange ideas on areas they are not comfortable with them and how they can amicably do business with public entities.
PRAZ continues to urge entities to plan as well as look for the required expertise each time they want to procure tech-equipment. Many a time, organizations impulsively purchase unnecessary goods and services just for the sake of purchasing, a feat they attribute to government’s delay in disbursement of funds as well as in the name of spending so that they prepare for the next financial year.
Kalumba said, when planning, one should look for 5 Ws and an H, why you want to buy the product, when, where and How.
PSs said each time PRAZ organises such meetings, it should also invite ministers so that they also learn and desist from deliberately interfering to satisfy their political ambitions and agendas at the expense of the citizen’s planned budgets.
Some of the participants in last week’s program include, ZINARA, ZIMPARKS, AFC HOLDING, Petrotrade, ZETDC, AUREX, POSB, ZWMB AND Willowvale Motors to mention just a few. The capacity building program is fully funded by the African Development Bank as the authority moves to fulfil its mandate shared in the annual calendar to meet and engage with all key stakeholders throughout the year.