Lockdown: Flouting of procurement regulations bleeds parastatals

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PRAZ chairperson Vimbai Nyemba

  • Approving committees argued that businesses were closed
  • Procurement departments could not get the mandatory three quotations from suppliers

State enterprises could have been prejudiced of millions of dollars by unscrupulous officials in the respective procurement departments who capitalised on the loopholes created by the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Zim Morning Post can report.

       This comes amid reports that standard procurement regulations were temporarily suspended owing to absence of some signatories in approval of purchases.

Sources told this publication that during the 21 day national lockdown period several, if not all approving committees that run the state enterprises procurement departments could not verify or request the mandatory three different quotations from suppliers.

“The committees were not meeting during the lockdown.

“Procurement departments had no time to verify or compare the prices of goods to be purchased,” the source said.

He added that  the task of purchasing were left to the few officials who could meet via virtual spaces like Whatsapp and zoom meetings.

“Imagine an official trying to set up a virtual online conference to deliberate on the purchasing of fuel or equipment. There were problems with networks coupled with availability of the committee members who are sometimes in the farms or other areas where there is poor mobile connectivity.

“The decisions ended up being made by one or two members and that opened an avenue for looting,” the source said.

Despite the fact that procurement regulations were not suspended, sources told this publication that certain procedures were overlooked to speed up the procurement processes.

In an interview with the Zim Morning Post over the weekend, the Procurement Regulation Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) board chairperson Vimbai Nyemba said the regulations were not suspended and those found guilty of flouting them will be brought to book.

“Procurement regulations were still in place and operational. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act provides for urgent procurements. Those that were not following the regulations should be brought to book,” Nyemba said.

“WE had made contingent plans to cater for the lockdown  because it did not start all of a sudden like Cyclone Idai. PRAZ issued guidelines of how procurements were going to be done through circular 1/2020. The Ministry of Health also flighted tenders for procurements in terms of the regulations.

“There could be entities that flouted the law and those should be brought to book,” she said.

Meanwhile, last week government raised alarm on the abuse of funds during the COVID-19 induced national lockdown.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance George Guvamatanga  wrote to directors and other top ranking officials advising them that only sanctioned travel should be allowed to draw domestic allowances, while the rest should go to deserving people in the country’s COVID-19 response which had been sustained, largely by donors.

“Treasury has noted with concern an increase in payment runs requesting for funds for processing domestic allowances, narrated as COVID-19 payments for staff on duty during the lockdown period,” read Guvamatanga’s circular dated April 28.

“As you are aware of pronouncement of lockdown throughout Statutory instrument 81 and 82 clearly called for mitigatory measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and involved limited or no movement across cities and towns and hence reduces domestic travel expenses.”

Guvamatanga said instead of government departments focusing on coronavirus interventions, they were

now pushing more for allowances than delivering to the needy.

“However, line ministries are now prioritizing payment of allowances despite the call by Treasury in its later dated March 20, requesting accounting officers to identify none wage savings from their respective votes to be ring fenced for coronavirus interventions,” further read the circular.

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