There is an African proverb that reads as follows: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito”.
The mosquito in this government is the extent of corruption and more especially corruption in our procurement processes. Corruption being an enemy to democracy and a stumbling block to effective service delivery and job creation.
Being stuck in damage-control mode for as long as we have been, would eventually catch up with government and force us to consider game changers, such as the opening up of the tender process in Gauteng, which MEC Creecy announced on 12 November 2014 at the launch of the more than R50m upgrade of Cedar road in Fourways .
Now game changers focus either on our greatest challenges or our best opportunities- and sometimes both come together.
With a long term vision of fostering highly skilled, innovation driven, resource efficient, connected, high opportunity for all, the City of Cape Town became the first municipality to open up their tender process in 2006, where the public were invited to attend their bid adjudication committee meetings. They became the example for many other governments to follow, yet the lack of political will and political interference prevented them to be just that.
We therefore wish to commend the Gauteng government for opening up their tender process at a time when economic growth, job creation, and levels of community trust in government is at an all-time low. We also wish to commend you on the 30 % spend of procurement on black business in the 1st six months of the current financial year.
Premier Makhura in his speech delivered at the Open Tender seminar earlier this month referred to 3 points that is crucial to curb corruption – deterrence, prevention and education. He also said that, and I quote “In surveys, public discourse, corruption and bribery in tender processes have featured prominently as issues of great concern amongst South Africans. People demand accountability and transparency” Close quote.
As a responsible government we must empower our communities on corruption and build a trust relationship Not only is probity auditing one of the critical elements of the open tender process, but social auditing where government and society work together in a strong trust relationship, where we find strong leadership and direction, common goals, and where incompetence is never ever glorified.
Key to an open tender process is to constantly document its impact on transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.
We therefore need to ensure efficiency and transparency in procurement to promote competition among suppliers and contractors and to provide fair and equal treatment between suppliers and contractors by using a fair supplier rotation system.
The successful open tender process needs to also ensure that public procurement processes are available at all times by ensuring that technology is used effectively and that online bidding and computerised supply chain management is accessible and streamlined; and ensure that vendors are able to be placed on vendor lists. This will speed up response times and access to government information and support as well as access to government officials and managers, and make it easier for small businesses to understand tendering processes and supply governments with the goods and services they need. These small businesses will then also be able to create jobs.
One of the most recent transparency measures in Mexico’s open tender system is the obligation for federal agencies to appoint a ‘social witness’ when the value of the contract to be awarded exceeds a certain threshold amount. Social witnesses are representatives of civil society acting as external observers in public procurement tenders. Social witnesses will participate in all stages of the procurement procedures as overseers without participating in the actual decision-making process and issues a final report compiling a testimonial of all phases of the tender.
To promote transparency, diminish corruption risks and improve the overall efficiency and reliability of public procurement, social witnesses must be honourable persons or companies who are independent from the parties involved in the tender. They are selected through a public bidding process and must meet several requirements, such as not having held public office, not having been sentenced to imprisonment, have an academic degree, work experience and professional or academic recognitions. Furthermore, to be selected, they must submit a written statement under oath that they will refrain from participating in contracts where a conflict of interest may exist. An initiative that we can definitely also benefit from.
Speaker, on the 15th September 2016 the DA mayor in the City of Tshwane Metro announced the opening up of the tender process in the metro after discovering that the previous ANC government awarded multi-million Rand contracts illegally to friends and family by ignoring the legal procurement processes in place. This led to fruitless and wasteful expenditure of public money.
It is a pity that Premier Makhura in his speech mentioned earlier told delegates that certain municipalities in the province already reneged on their election promises to open up their tender processes. I would appreciate if he could indicate who these municipalities are, as their decisions not to open up their tender processes will only drag down province’s efforts to ensure a responsible and transparent government whilst trying to build a strong trust relationship with communities.
Our provincial population is increasing annually in the face of shrinking budgets in real terms. Opening up our tender process is a responsible step, and acknowledging the challenges we face as government as far as curbing corruption, building trust relationships, delivering on services to our communities and creating jobs are concerned.
Adriana Randall MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC on Finance
060 556 4342