New Public Procurement Bill intended to end tender corruption

27 July 2023 172
To address the continuing perception of tender corruption which has also been included as one of the reasons for South Africa’s grey listing by the international community, the Minister of Finance in May 2023 introduced a draft Public Procurement Bill as the answer to creating conformation, stability and transparency in public procurement across all state entities from national to local government level. The Bill has since been tabled in Parliament.

According to the Bill, Treasury wishes to create a single regulatory system for public procurement that will apply to all entities that fall under the Public Finance Management Act and Municipal Finance Management Act, and in doing so address the abuse and corruption that has accompanied the current decentralised system of procurement.

In embarking on the journey for a uniform procurement system, the Bill makes provision for the establishment of different regulatory bodies. Such bodies include, amongst others, a new Public Procurement Office to promote and implement necessary measures to maintain the integrity of procurement, promote standardisation in procurement and monitor and oversee implementation of the eventual Act.

Also, Provincial Treasuries are targeted as entities that must assist to promote and enforce effective management and transparency in respect of the procurement function of procuring institutions and issue non-binding guidelines to assist procuring institutions in implementation of the Act or any other procurement-related matter. 

The Minister of Finance in turn must prescribe a procurement system and methods for procurement and the Public Procurement Office may, by instruction, determine standard bid documents.  

An interesting part of the Bill is the introduction of the use of technology in procurement. The Public Procurement Office is tasked with developing an information and communication technology-based procurement system for all procurement to enhance efficiencies, effectiveness, transparency and integrity and to combat corruption. Such a system must comprise a single platform that provides access to procurement-related services for officials, bidders, suppliers and members of the public, and must have a uniform procurement procedure component and procurement data to be able to easily report on, analyse, research and deal with oversight of procurement transactions. 

It is clear from the Bill that a substantial overhaul of the public procurement system is envisaged and the free-to-do-as-you-like approach that has existed to date in respect of public procurement will be done away with. Given the extent of the changes envisaged, it is questionable how long it will take before such a centralised process and systems will be actively used, but the intent to centralize, standardize and have proper oversight over all public procurement can only be welcomed.

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