Govt allays fears of procurement irregularities
Harare (New Ziana) – The purchase of goods and services by government Ministries and departments is done under strict procurement laws and guidelines, as such it is difficult to dupe treasury into paying for overpriced goods and services, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
Last week, several media outlets ran stories alleging that government had been duped into buying overpriced Coronavirus equipment, test kits and personal protective wear by a company called Drax International.
It was alleged that under the deal, Treasury had procured face masks at an exorbitant price of US$28 per unit when the same product could be sourced from local pharmacies at not more than US$5.
But, Finance and Economic Development permanent secretary George Guvamatanga cleared the air on the matter, explaining that treasury had cancelled the supply deal as it had noted various irregularities.
“Some of the noise that is currently there is actually concerning contracts which are none-existent because in performing the gate-keeping responsibility, treasury had already taken the right steps in making sure that we protect the government purse by highlighting some of the anomalies like overpricing on some of the contracts, poor due-diligence on some of the contracts, failure to follow procedures and we then advised, in line with our mandate, for those different ministries to say you have not followed procedure, this should be cancelled this is overpriced,” he told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance.
“I would want to re-assure this house, under the oath that I have taken, that we have performed our gate-keeping responsibilities as expected and most of the issues that are raised in the media are incorrect because treasury through its own processes on most of those procurements had already highlighted concerns and in some instances already suspended some of the contracts and in some instances cancelled some of those contracts.”
Guvamatanga said treasury was committed to ensuring that government gets value for money for every procurement.
“We (Treasury) do not have the expertise to know if there are buses that need to be purchased, what are the best buses for the road, we leave that to the technical people in the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Local Government who know that the roads that we have are designed for which particular type of bus
“The same applies to medical supplies, we are not experts in knowing which medical supplies are required, which is the best bed for an ICU unit, we leave that to the Ministry of Health to do. If it is grain, we leave that to the Ministry of Agriculture to determine the required moisture content and all the other technicalities that are there. So there is no way as treasury can make a procurement decision, so all the processes, the due diligence, the checking is done at the relevant parent ministry,” he said.
Adding on, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube explained the procurement process.
He said treasury was only responsible for releasing money for any procurement request, but before paying it had to be satisfied that the deal would not prejudice government.
“Treasury is not responsible for procurement it is the departments, the Ministries that run these procurement processes obviously working with PRAZ and others and they follow the rules as there are rules to be followed,” he said.
“As treasury our job is then to respond to that demand in terms of what needs to be paid but of course we do check that certain things and processes have been followed, that is what we do, but we do not procure and also we do not spend a lot of time digging into who is who as such that is an issue which the security clearance process does in the course of the procurement process.”