Sunday, September 4, 2011

Laws yes but action NO!

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Amendment Bill was recently signed into law by the President.

According to PPDA, the amendments were driven by the need to strengthen the enforcement powers of the authority to carry out its mandate and make the law more efficient and relevant.

One of the major changes in the new Bill is that local service providers will have a special margin of preference over the other providers, giving them an upper hand in the business.

"This is aimed at promoting the development of local companies by giving them a competitive advantage over foreign firms when competing for public contracts."

The law also provides for creation of a PPDA Appeals Tribunal to review the decisions of the authority.

It also streamlines the provisions of the PPDA Act with the Access to Information Act and the right to access information by providing for disclosure of certain information during the procurement process.

The new law gives PPDA powers to direct that corrective measures be undertaken. The authority will also be able to initiate suspension proceedings on its own rather than waiting for a recommendation for public disposing entities (PDEs).

On administrative reviews, the amendment Act requires PDEs to give bidders who seek an administrative review a summary of the evaluation process, a comparison of the tenders and proposals or quotations. This also includes the evaluation criteria used and the reasons for rejecting the concerned bids to protect the integrity and transparency of the administrative process.

The Bill bars accounting officers from accepting contracts where the price quoted by the best evaluated bidder is higher than the market price.

It also provides for an alternative system for the procurement of medicines and medicinal supplies.

Commenting on the new law, Milton Tumutegyerize of the Institute of Procurement Practitioners of Uganda (IPPU), believes it will make a big difference in the sector.

He notes that by emphasising the need for procurement practitioners to be under a professional body, the new law eases to fight against vices plaguing the industry.

Tumutegyerize points out that it recognised procurement as a profession, paving way for it to have an Act of Parliament like other professions in the country.

He adds that the institute has already approached the Minister of Finance, who promised to table the IPPU Bill before Parliament for approval.

He, nonetheless, notes that the institute prefers that only certified procurement practitioners be recognised, which the new Bill did not provide for.

"Hopefully, the issue will be sorted in the IPPU Bill.

"The new amendment Bill is also silent on the qualifications of a person supposed to head a government procurement and disposal unit. This means that when such a person is involved in unethical practices, it will be hard for the institute to intervene or punish him or her," he explains.

If it had been provided, the public service administrative action necessary would be taken, he adds.

Jasper Tumuhimbise, a procurement practitioner, is pessimistic that the new law will bring the needed change in the sector.

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"The law might only change on paper. If the implementers don't change, it will not make a difference from the old one," notes.

He adds that there was a need to set up internal institutions to oversee the implementation of the new law if it is to yield results. "If there is no proper leadership to end corruption in the procurement sector, its future is bleak. The desired change will happen only if there is vigilant leadership, especially in public institutions," he explains.

Dora Egunyu, the PPDA spokesperson, notes that a technical committee on the amendments has already been formed to spearhead the revisions into the amendment of PPDA regulations.

"When the exercise is completed, the Bill will come into force this financial year on a date that will be set by the minister in charge by statutory instrument," Egunyu says

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