The government says it would consult the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) and the office of the Attorney General (AG) on the ban imposed on Oxford University Press Tanzania Limited on whether or not it should remain one of suppliers of books to educational institutions in the country.
On Thursday the public procurement watchdog barred more than 300 firms, including the local branch of the UK top publishing firm, Oxford University Press from participating in public procurement activities due to involvement in fraud and corruption.
Until Thursday this week Oxford University Press Tanzania Limited was spotted in parliamentary grounds selling its products but their relations with the government have now turned sour due to the ban facing it.
Minister for Education and Vocation Training Dr Shukuru Kawambwa was hesitant to issue an outright answer on whether the ministry would cooperate with Oxford University Press following the ban.
“I will consult the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) and the Attorney General on this issue,” Dr Kawambwa responded when exclusively asked by The Guardian on Sunday about their future working relations with Oxford University Press Tanzania Limited.
OUP (T) was one of the 13 publishing companies appointed by the government to supply primary school books, to be purchased under the utilization of balance cash amounting to 28 million sterling pounds (Sh72.3 billion), received by the government from settlements on the ‘overpriced radar’ purchased in 1999.
The radar controversially purchased from the UK aeronautics firm, BAE Systems had a market value of 12 million but the government was made to pay 40 million pounds. The matter which was aired in the media, taken up in the House of Commons and then owned up by UK authorities as the British government has a stake in BAE Systems. It was finally settled in a London court that ordered repayment of the excess money to Tanzania.
Last month Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told the National Assembly when winding up debate on his office’s estimates that the books would be purchased from 13 different publishing firms, two text books per subject.
The companies were listed as Ben Company, Best Deal Publisher, E & D Vision, Education Books Publisher, Jadida, LongHorn, Longman, Macmillan, Mkuki na Nyota, Mture, Oxford, Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) and Ujuzi Books.
Of the 13 appointed publishers, three are foreign but with branches in Tanzania, while the others are locally owned. The agreement on the use of funds was signed in March with the UK authorities represented by the Department for International Development (DfID), BAE Systems and SFO (Serious Fraud Office).
It provided that 75 percent of the funds would be spent on purchasing textbooks, teaching guides and summaries, with 25 percent spent on purchase of desks.
Spending the money on educational sector needs was a compromise option as BAE Systems refused to simply pay the money to the Exchequer. The UK authorities worked to bring about a compromise where a special account would be opened for the funds to be used for educational sector needs, with wider supervision.
PPRA Chief Executive Officer Ramadhan Mlinga said midweek that the recent ban targeted foreign firms, suppliers and construction companies blacklisted or barred by acknowledged institutions elsewhere, from taking part in public procurement activities.
The Procurement Act number 21 of 2004, Section 57, gives the authority powers to debar firms or individuals, who have been banned by international organisations and foreign companies for fraud, corruption or breach of contract, he was quoted as saying.
Out of those blacklisted firms, according to the watchdog top official, 345 firms and individuals have been debarred by the World Bank for fraud or corruption, while 13 others have been debarred by Uganda’s Public Procurement and Disposal Authority for fraud, corruption or breach of contract. PPRA decision came a week after the World Bank cited OUP branches in East Africa and Tanzania specifically for corrupt practices in procurement activities.
A Word Bank statement on July 5 to axe the two from its own procurement engagements related to two bank-financed education projects in East Africa, where OUP (UK) admitted misconduct.
It all started in May 2011 when the World Bank Group’s investigators confronted Oxford University Press on apparent financial misconduct.
Upon admitting wrongdoing OUP decided to conduct an internal investigation, which corroborated the World Bank findings. It thus led to axing the two regional subsidiaries from World Bank procurement for three years.