Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on the Government to ensure transparency in public procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic as they are concerned about allegations of abuse of public funds, weak procurement processes and limited systems of checks and balances within government.
In a statement following reports of skewed procurement procedures and price gouging in the procurement of Covid-19 related supplies, the CSOs urged government to disclose ownership of companies awarded tenders.
“We recommend that the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure public disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies awarded public by creating an online beneficial ownership register to inculcate a culture of transparency when awarding public procurement contracts.
“Conduct due diligence of the companies before awarding public contracts. Establish the management and ownership of the company, when the company was registered, authenticity, company capitalisation, physical location, revenue and margin trends, market size and market growth, stock price history, tax compliance, competition among other critical factors,” read the statement
The CSOs called on the Government to release fortnight updates on procurement and strengthen public institutions that oversee accountability.
“Release fortnightly procurement updates, what we need and what has been bought for the same period. Reinforce oversight bodies and anti-corruption agencies to alleviate the abuse of COVID-19 earmarked resources. Such institutions include the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), Zimbabwe Anti- Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Competition Tariff Commission,”
Those that do not comply the social groups urged the Government to take action as enshrined in the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.
“Take action against those that do not comply with procurement procedures as provided for by the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act to ensure that public procurement is conducted in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost- effective and competitive.”
Like other countries the organisations called on the Government to set up electronic procurement system (e-procurement) for Covid-19 and other public procurement systems.
The call comes at a time when a company registered in Namibia, is alleged to have been awarded contracts to supply Covid-19 equipment to the Ministry of Health and Child Care without going through a competitive bidding process.