FINANCE Minister Thabo Sophonea this week tabled the Public Procurement Bill 2020 in parliament, a move expected to strengthen the efficiency of the government’s procurement system.
Mr Sophonea said the bill is meant to establish a public procurement authority to regulate public procurement structures by providing procedures, processes and regulation of procurement of goods, works and services to optimise efficiency in public procurement and obtain value for money for the government.
He said the authority will also provide for disposal of unserviceable and obsolete public assets.
If passed into law, this will be the first time that Lesotho will have an act dedicated to regulating its public procurement system. Lesotho currently relies on the Public Procurement Regulations, 2007 for guiding its public procurement affairs.
The law will apply to government ministries and agencies, diplomatic missions, local government authorities, state owned enterprises and any third-party entities carrying out activities on behalf of the government.
In tabling the bill for its first reading, Mr Sophonea said the bill provides the authority with power to institute a procurement contract performance audit and suspend the supplier for engaging in public procurement misconduct.
“The bill also provides for debarment of tenderers, suppliers, contractors or consultants for provision of false information in the tendering process, collusion between suppliers and public officers concerning formulation of tender documents,” Mr Sophonea said.
“It also provides for debarment of tenderers for connivance to interfere with participation of a competing tenderer and misconduct relating to a submission of a tender including corruption, collusion, coercion, obstruction, price fixing, tender rigging, pattern of underpricing of a tender, breach of confidentiality and any other relevant misconduct.”
Among its functions, the authority will formulate policy and standards for all aspects of public procurement. It will also develop and issue a procurement standard tender document, guidelines and procurement manual.
The authority will also “conduct an annual audit on an overall function of a public procurement system and a profile of a procurement activity and present it to the Minister (of Finance) to table before parliament”.
The bill will introduce an electronic procurement method to enable procurement entities to disseminate tender documents and receipts through electronic means. It also establishes a central tender board which shall be responsible for conducting a bidding process on behalf of a public entity for large tender in excess of M20 million for consultancy and other works and M50 million for other specified works.
“The bill further codifies all issues pertaining to procurement and disposal of absolute stores by providing for the establishment and functions of the Public Procurement Tribunal. Previously, the tribunal was established under Public Financial Management and Accountability Act.”
The bill further provides for community participation in procurement where there is a need to carry out small value construction works and supply of goods.
For his part, the chief executive officer of the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho, Thabo Qhesi said formalisation of the public procurement system is likely to reduce corruption by government officials during awarding of tenders.
“This is a good development which one can only hope will have a positive influence in terms of curbing corruption by public officials during the tendering process,” Mr Qhesi said.
He said development of standard tender documents will also play a significant role in plucking the gaps in the public procurement system.