Tender rigging curse gallops ahead, stifles economy
Friday 05 June 2015
This is all because the country’s public procurement system seems paralysed to shake-off elements of corruption and wrongdoing that are munching away at the national cake.
Corruption is defined as a dishonest practice by those in positions of power, such as managers or government officials.
It can include giving or accepting bribes or inappropriate gifts, double dealing, under-the-table transactions, manipulating elections, diverting funds, laundering money and defrauding investors. Tymon Katlholo, an anti-corruption expert from Tyedo Anti-corruption Consultants says corruption is naturally a high risk factor in any economy, noting that there will always be negative consequences arising from corrupt practices and/or maybe scandals.
“No country or company is immune from this risk, even if it appears to be operating from a relatively safe environment,” he explains.
According to Katlholo, who however must have had in mind Botswana’s relatively safe operating environment, the consequences of corruption are unfair competition, especially in tendering and employment opportunities.
In this regard, he says the best service providers or contractors would not be considered for the job or assignment resulting in substandard end-products.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), which is the country’s corruption watchdog, has repeatedly warned that corruption has a bearing on the domestic economy as it can lead to a loss of public revenue from custom duties and both sales and income taxes.
Although Botswana continues to be ranked amongst the moderately clean governments in the world, the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index report released in December 2014 indicates that Botswana’s corruption has increased over the past three years. The report ranks Botswana in position 31 out of 174 countries and territories with a total score of 63 points out of the possible 100 points. It has been established that some of the problematic areas are government contracts and public tenders as the bulk of corrupt practices in the country take place at the procurement and tendering boards’ level. Katlholo, who is also the former DCEC boss, points out that the reason public procurement systems are inclined to corruption is because naturally procurement attracts huge sums of money.
“There is also fierce competition amongst contractors and suppliers for projects publicised for procurement. In many cases, there is lack of understanding of the procurement system by those who participate in the tendering process,” he reveals. The government and all the other state bodies are obliged to take tenders above P25 million to the PPADB.
its establishment in 1994, the DCEC which is tasked with combating corruption and economic crimes in the country, has been involved in a number of investigations that highlight the ease with which tender processes can be tampered with. Most of these investigations involve manipulation for personal gain of the public procurement system, in some cases to the tune of millions of Pula. Although the PPADB is trying to get things right, it admits that public procurement processes are often complex and transparency of the process is sometimes limited, therefore manipulation of tendering procedures is hard to detect.
The PPADB adjudicates and awards tenders for the central government and other institutions.
Last week, it announced that it would start publishing procurement plans for government institutions on the Internet as part of its efforts to curb corruption. The board believes this would ensure transparency and accountability to citizens.
Katlholo has applauded this development saying it is a step in the right direction in the fight against corruption. “It will ensure that information about procurement opportunities are conveniently accessible to the wider community and stakeholders,” he says.
Katlholo argues that corruption can be tackled by increasing transparency and accountability in the decision making processes and limiting situations where excessive discretion, which often leads to impunity, are likely to prevail.
“Transparency and accountability in procurement can be enhanced by ensuring that decision making structures and authority levels are clearly defined, demarcated and adhered to in order to provide checks and balances,” he states.
Another effective solution to corruption, according to Katlholo, is whistle blowing, which he says empowers stakeholders as well as employees. “At the same time, it enhances transparency and accountability.” He further explains that corruption also exploits deficiencies or loopholes in organisational structures, systems, procedures and processes. He, therefore, says it is necessary for procuring entities to ensure that such decision making structures and systems are not only efficient, but are also manned by highly trained and qualified personnel. “Taken together, these measures will reduce suspicions of corruption and foster accountability on the part of the decision makers, thereby increasing or creating incentives for integrity,” argues Katlholo. He indicates that corruption can take place at any stage of procurement; starting from the planning or conception stage, project design stage, invitation to tender (ITT), construction, project evaluation and award stages, project implementation stage and the final delivery stage of the project.