Show will to heal procurement

The procurement of subsidised farm inputs has dialled up calls for a level playing field for all vendors to compete for government contracts.

However, such deals are mostly marred by corruption and undue political interference resulting in loss of taxpayer’s money, substandard services and dwindling public trust.

Public procurement impacts various aspects of society, including infrastructure development, healthcare, education and citizens’ well-being.

This is why public contracts call for transparency, fairness and efficiency.

President Lazarus Chakwera says: “Corruption is our biggest enemy and is not welcome here.”

There is need for sustained political will to end corruption. This refers to the commitment of government officials to prioritise public interest over personal or political gains.

Undue interference affects the integrity and fairness of the process.

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets  Act of 2017 outlaws “pressure or influence exerted on a public officer to make a decision in favour of the person exerting such pressure or influence anyone connected to them”.

Political interference seeks to sway procurement decisions at the expense of fair competition and public welfare.

When political leaders demonstrate genuine dedication to promote accountability and ethical standards in public procurement, it sends a clear message that unlawful practices will not be tolerated.

This empowers procurement officials to act independently and based on merit, not external pressure.

Political zeal to combat corruption sets the tone for transparency and accountability in the process.

It establishes the framework guiding all procurement activities.

Strong political will influences the allocation of resources, budgeting and policy priorities.

When leaders prioritise transparency and accountability in public procurement, it gives rise to robust monitoring and oversight systems to prevent, detect and penalise corruption.

Furthermore, it builds public confidence in the procurement process as citizens expect governments to act in their best interest and use public funds efficiently and effectively.

Political leaders’ commitment to promoting integrity and fairness enhances public confidence and fosters a sense of ownership among citizens.

As public business is becoming dynamic, Clerk of Parliament  Fiona Kalemba recently called for the review of the procurement law, the Corrupt Practices Act and other relevant laws to strengthen the monitoring, adherence to regulations and ensuring fairness for all bidders.

Additionally, public pressure and media scrutiny can significantly impact the political will in public procurement. When citizens and the media are actively engaged in holding politicians accountable for their actions, there is a higher likelihood of political will being upheld. Highlighting investigative journalism, public awareness campaigns and advocacy groups working to end any potential misconduct or corruption in procurement processes.

Understanding the concept of undue influence in public procurement is crucial in shedding light on the power dynamics and potential corruption that can occur in these deals. These manifest in various forms, such as bribery, kickbacks, nepotism, coercion or collusion among suppliers or government officials. Devising ways in enhancing transparency and accountability through the use of electronic procurement systems, establishing clear ethical guidelines and codes of conduct, conducting thorough due diligence on suppliers and promoting competition through open and fair bidding processes. In addition, fostering a culture of integrity and ethics within the public procurement sector is crucial.

This can be achieved through training programmes, awareness campaigns and fostering a zero-tolerance to corruption.

This not only protects public resources but also promotes economic development, stimulates healthy competition and builds trust in the public sector.

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