The government has bowed to pressure from MPs and scrapped heavy plants and machinery from the list of used assets that the government can purchase.
This is contained in the amendments of various sections of the Public Procurement Bill, 2011 carried out yesterday following an intense debate in Parliament since last Thursday. The Bill repeals the Public Procurement Act, 2004.
MPs had earlier expressed skepticism over the inclusion of Sub-sections 3 and 4 of Section 65 into the Bill, saying the decision aimed at creating loopholes for the government to procure used power generators and turbines.
The sub-sections, among other things provided for conditions that would allow the government to procure used plants and machinery. According to the stipulated criteria heavy plants and machineries whose manufacturing required a long time could be purchased while used.
Such used heavy plants and machinery could also be procured in case it was proved that there was inadequate budgetary allocation and if the procurement entity demonstrated that the cost of buying the new machinery could not be accommodated in the budget appropriation and that waiting until adequate allocation could be made in the future would make the public suffer.
Aircraft, ships, locomotive engines and wagons were listed as the assets that can be purchased while used as per the legislation.
However the approval of whether the purchase of such used assets is to be made on normal or emergency basis must be made by minister responsible for finance and economic affairs upon receiving advice from the technical advisory committee (ad hoc committee) to be formed by the same minister.
Before amending Section 65 (4) that now wants the approval to be made by the minister, the section earlier on proposed for such an approval to be made by the Cabinet.
The pressure of MPs also forced the government to come up with an extra sub –section that gives a definition to the term ‘used’. It was Ubungo MP (Chadema) John Mnyika and Mwibara MP (CCM) Alfaxard Kangi Lugola who pressed for specification of the used items to be purchased.
The question of penalty to be imposed on government officials violating the Public Procurement Act, 2011 and its regulations also attracted a heated debate among MPs, with some lawmakers saying errant officials deserved severe punishment.
While the Bill proposed that officials who committed an offence under the law be required pay not less than 10 million/- or be subjected to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or both upon conviction, MPs furiously opposed such level of penalty.
They, instead, proposed subjecting the convicts to imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years and not more than 30 years. The debate on the penalty prompted Speaker Anne Makinda to refer the matter back to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs for deliberation.
“There has been a tendency of enacting biting laws that target wananchi but when the laws target government officials they are very lenient,” Kisesa MP Luhaga Mpina said.
But Attorney General Judge Frederick Werema urged MPs to be sober when enacting laws, reminding them of the effects of the Economic Sabotage Act (1983) and the Economic and Organized Crimes Control Act of 1984 to the country.
Minister for Finance Mustafa Mkullo assured MPs that in case any need of purchasing used items arose, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority PPRA) would closely monitor the process.
He added that if it was a used item such as used aircraft then maintenance record and certificate of worthiness must be closely scrutinised. He said if such item had been involved in an accident then it would not be purchased.
Public procurement is an area that has contributed to loss of billions of shillings. The 2009/2010 report of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) shows a total of 2.4 trillion/- was misappropriated in 2009/2010 financial year, which is equivalent to 21 per cent of the respective financial year’s budget of 11 trillion/-.
Out of the 2.4 trillion/- misappropriated in 2009/2010 financial year, a total of 50.6 billion/- was spent outside the annual procurement plan while 15.5 billion/- was spent in unauthorized payments.
It is documented that in total the government and its institutions annually carries out public procurement worth 15 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).