5 August 2014 | Will Green
The head of a procurement watchdog in Zambia told a conference that laws should be put in place to stop politicians interfering in the letting of contracts.
Maxwell Musongole, director general of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), said his department refused calls from politicians during tenders, even though he risked being “fired for doing the right thing”.
Speaking at the CIPS Pan African Conference in Zambia, he said: “You can put laws in place to ensure no politician talks to a procurement person when tenders are going on. In procurement you can be fired for doing the right thing and for doing the wrong thing. I have chosen to be fired for doing the right thing.”
Musongole, a mathematician who has been in his role for just eight months after moving from a job in banking, said he had not previously realised the importance of procurement.
“Public procurement takes a large part of the national budget. It’s therefore a key source of demand and a major area in which the government is striving to improve the delivery of public services,” he said.
“There is a need for public procurement policy that creates understanding between public procurers and the markets. I used to think it was politicians, but now it’s the procurement people I think are responsible for the poor products and services procured by government.”
Musongole told delegates the ZPPA was mandated to enforce the Public Procurement Act of 2008, increasing transparency and accountability, removing political interference, setting standards, monitoring compliance and providing an appeals process.
“I didn’t know how important procurement was until I went into procurement,” he said. “I wonder why this profession has been lying low, because it’s the most important.”