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Public can now weigh in on bill aimed at tackling abuse of public tender system

Feb 21 2020 09:41

The National Treasury has released the long-awaited Public Procurement Bill for public comment, after the document, aimed at streamlining state tender processes, was approved by Cabinet.

The bill, in the making for over four years, aims to create a single regulatory framework for procurement for all layers of government and state-owned entities, in a bid to reduce red tape and stamp out corruption in the procurement system. 

Once passed into law, it will repeal the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act of 2000, and amend other procurement-related laws.

Public procurement is a large area of government expenditure, and in South Africa has come under fire for instances of abuse and the sometimes irregular awarding of lucrative contracts. Evidence heard before the Zondo Commission into State Capture detailed extensive abuse of existing procurement processes at various state departments and entities, such as South African Airways and Transnet, in what has been blamed for the draining of public finances.

'Big business'

In his medium-term budget in 2015, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene said "public procurement is big business" and the current newly released bill will replace more than 80 different legal instruments, guidelines and instruction notes that govern public procurement.

"The bill creates a more flexible preferential procurement regime and enables the Minister of Finance, after consulting responsible Ministers, to prescribe a framework for preferential procurement," National Treasury said.

This bill introduces the establishment of the Public Procurement Tribunal, which is empowered to review decisions made by a provincial treasury or the regulator and the appointment of members of a Tribunal, which has the power to overturn the award of a procurement contract.

It allows any party dissatisfied with an order of the Tribunal to call for a judicial review in terms of Promotion of Just Administrative Justice Act.

Any person who exerts undue influence on any official of an institution or a member of the Tribunal may face criminal prosecution.

Another areas of focus is deviation, which has been consistently abused by authorities when issuing a contract without going on open tender. The provision outlines the exceptional circumstances where government departments, municipalities or SOEs may deviate from normal tender process, including when it is impossible, impractical or uneconomical to comply with the act.

Public comments on the the bill may be submitted until May 31, 2020.

Compiled by Sibongile Khumalo

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