The establishment of an electronic procurement system to enhance transparency, efficiency and credibility of the country’s sloppy procurement processes has been hampered by funding shortfalls from external development partners, three years after the project was mooted, 263Chat Business has learnt.
In 2017, Zimbabwe contracted a British consulting firm, Crown Agency with the funding support of World Bank to develop an electronic procurement strategy which was completed in 2018 as a precursor to the setting up of an electronic system.
Since then, progress for the establishment of the system has stalled owing to resource constraints despite having a sound framework in place.
“We are working to introduce an electronic government procurement framework which is going to assist in dealing with some of the challenges we have encountered in the past. The actual system is a bit expensive so we are yet to find financial assistance to set it up,” Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) capacity building director Mr Cliff Gondo told media in a workshop held in Harare last Friday.
Insiders estimate the costs of setting up the electronic system to be within the range of US$ 2-3 million.
The e-procurement platform is among a set of reforms government is undertaking to ensure transparency and strengthening of safeguards to state resources when contracting services and goods.
The platform will have all specifications including bidders and the ultimate winner of the tender for public scrutiny.
There have been a lot of controversies in the state procurement system in recent years, partly because of lack of understanding of the procurement processes by the public but more so, due to irregularities by participants who tend to flout standard procurement laws.
This has led to misappropriation of state resources as authorities have in some cases awarded tenders to unscrupulous entities to supply services and goods without due diligence and non-transparently.
In 2017, government enacted the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, which repealed the Procurement Act and abolished the State Procurement Board (SPB), a body which conducted procurement on behalf of government entities.
Under the new law, PRAZ was set up to replace SPB and it now enables the adoption of e-government procurement system which was not previously granted in the old procurement laws.
State procurement accounts for about 20-25 percent of Zimbabwe’s annual budget hence the need for strengthening procurement systems to combat rampant corruption.
Recently, documents fell into public domain of the state contracting, Drax International, a Swiss company, fronted by dubious businessman Delish Nguwaya, to supply medicines and surgical sundries worth US$60 million without going to tender.
The company had inflated prices of supplies, a development that exposed the state’s lack of due diligence in procurement.