By Athan Tashobya
The parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and Patrimony, yesterday, sent back to the drawing board a new draft law that seeks to professionalise the procurement sector.
Legislators said the Procurement Bill had “a few issues” of unclearly stipulated legal assertions that required amendments.
Further examination of the Bill could not continue until the issues were sorted, said Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, the chairperson of the committee.
“We need efficiency and value for money in the procurement sector. To attain that, we need clearly stipulated laws that will call off all the issues that have existed, for well functioning and sustainable procurement in the country,” said Rwaka.
Her concern was echoed by MPs Jeanne d’Arc Nyinawase and Fidèle Rwigamba, who said they could not start examining the Bill when there are some issues that needed to be clarified.
“The Bill still provides for two different entities; one segment that seeks to govern the procurement profession, and another that establishes Rwanda Association of Procurement Professionals. We have to harmonise the two and come up with one legal framework,” said Nyinawase.
This was the second time legislators are sending back the Procurement Bill for further streamlining.
The Bill was drafted to streamline activities of the procurement sector following repeated anomalies and incidents of corruption-related undertakings, especially as captured by various financial year reports by the Office of the Auditor-General.
However, Augustus Seminega, the director-general of Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA), said the government wished to draft one law to avoid risks identified in drafting two separate laws; like diverting from a standard format of other laws on professional associations, as well as putting interconnected provisions in two separate documents.
It was agreed by all stakeholders, Seminaga said, that the Bill would entirely focus on the mechanisms governing procurement profession, with other provisions included in one Bill.
“We have agreed that the title reflects properly the content of the law. It will focus on procurement profession,” said Kampeta Sayinzoga, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
Scrutiny of the draft law is expected to commence in February after legal advisors from relevant institutions make the required changes.
Once enacted, the law is expected to help close the loopholes that have been prevalent in the sector, especially in public procurement, where, according to the Auditor-General, about 30 per cent of tenders awarded by public entities do not comply with procurement guidelines.
The report that covered the period between August 2012 and June 2013, said that more than Rwf23 billion was lost in poor contract management procedures, while nine contracts, worth Rwf908 million, were abandoned by contractors.
Procurement loopholes were noticed in project design and study, bidding documents as well as enforcement of contracts, among others.
In a recent interview with The New Times, Seminega blamed procurement errors on low skill levels, lack of experience and laxity among procurement officers.
“Public procurement has improved. We are coming from a time when all public procurement was done by one central entity. Now, the government has built capacities, institutions can manage to do own procurement. It is a process to achieve efficiency in the sector, that is where we are headed,” said Kampeta.
Will Bill close gaps in procurement?