Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
INFRASTRUCTURE Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) chief executive officer Thomas Zondo Sakala escaped prosecution by a whisker after allegedly failing to follow procurement laws in respect of tender awards for two projects.
This was said by Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) chief executive officer Mr Nyasha Chizu last week.
Mr Sakala is the IDBZ’s accounting officer in line with the country’s new procurement law, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Cap 22:23).
PRAZ’s remarks follow the cancellation of two tenders by the IDBZ last week, after it emerged that due process was not followed.
IDBZ has since invited those who submitted bids for the projects in response to the Specific Procurement Notice, to a “debriefing meeting” scheduled for this Wednesday in Harare.
The meeting in respect for the health sector and academic staff/students accommodation projects takes place in the morning, while the one for the additions and alterations to IDBZ property stand number 655 in Bulawayo is slated for the afternoon.
Mr Sakala told The Herald Business last week that the cancellation of the tenders was not indicative of problems on their part.
“These are processes that started sometime last year and at that time, standard bidding documents from PRAZ were not yet available, so we had used other international best practice documents, which are used by the other international development organisations like the AfDB and the World Bank; which had been customised to the Zimbabwean situation,” said Mr Sakala.
“When it came to us submitting our recommendations for approval, that’s when the relevant PRAZ authorities raised a lot of things including things that could probably be referred to after their own document became available, which was in November.
“We had started the processes much earlier in the year . . . and we are a little bit confused with the feedback we are getting from PRAZ.”
Mr Sakala said they had to cancel the tenders on the basis of the oversight committee at PRAZ, adding that another batch of tenders, “faces the same fate”.
But Mr Chizu said there is a misunderstanding on the measure of compliance by the Special Procurement Oversight Committee (SPOC), an independent tribunal established in terms of Section 54 of the PPDPA Act (Cap 22:23).
Mr Chizu said the SPOC, which is not part of PRAZ, is an extension of the procuring entity in line with the spirit of the law.
“The processes were not reviewed in line with the new Standard Bidding Documents. They were reviewed in line with the Act and regulations.
“Our processes in procurement also follow international best practices since it is based on the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade) model law. The difference is in the procedures which are defined in each country Regulations.
“It is my view that SPOC saved the accounting officer from prosecution since Section 94 of the regulations provides for some violations that constitute criminal crimes in procurement. They are processes that require prior review by the SPOC in line with Section 54 of the Act,” said Mr Chizu.
Section10(10) of the regulations provides thresholds for consultancy procurement that requires the issuance of an expression of interest and scrutiny by the SPOC while Section 32 provides that all expression of interest shall be cleared by SPOC in line with Section 54.
Mr Chizu says “this was unfortunately not done”.
He said the SPOC is mandated with scrutinising awards by procuring entities to establish whether the provisions of the PPDPA Act and Public Finance Management Act were adhered to.
The SPOC has power to refer tender awards for correction or cancellation depending on circumstances provided under Section 54(10) of the Act.
Mr Chizu said IDBZ’s message from the advert seem to imply that SPOC actions “were retrogressive when in fact it was meant to protect the accounting officer from the implications of non-compliance”.
IDBZ has also courted the ire of PRAZ after it flighted adverts in the Press last week to announce the cancellation and re-tendering for the projects, instead of simply writing letters to those that had participated in the bidding process.
Mr Chizu said letters would have cut costs.
“When it comes to communication with bidders, the procurement opportunity needs to be advertised in line with the law. The requirements for further communication is that it’s supposed to be in writing.
“With respect to the communication of tender outcome, Section 33(2) of the regulations requires that it is communicated by registered mail or email.
“This was designed in view of communication costs. The Authority was actually surprised as to why IDBZ chose an expensive way to communicate the tender outcome in view of the minimum requirements of the law,” said Mr Chizu.
But Sakala said the law required that if bids were communicated through the Press, the cancellation should similarly be notified through that media.