South Africa has 719 ‘procuring entities’: Treasury

National Treasury says that a report on Covid-19 related procurement is expected at the end of September.

Treasury aims to submit the Public Procurement Bill before the end of the year. The bill is intended to provide single regulatory framework for public procurement, and address fragmentation in the regulation of public procurement.

The bill is highly anticipated amid allegations of corruption in the procurement of goods and services for the country’s response to Covid-19.

“The government does not have an integrated procurement system,” said Estelle Setan, chief director: strategic procurement at the National Treasury, on Tuesday (01 September 2020).

“We have over 719 procuring entities, with very diverse procurement and payment systems.”

Setan said that a report on the procurement process between April and August (South Africa’s lockdown and Covid-19 related procurement) will be provided at the end of September, and then monthly thereafter.

Treasury will analyse transactional data since April, to assess trends around the payment of items, and suppliers. Setan said that the first report, containing this level of detail, will be shared at the end of the month.

She said that the Treasury will make it an integrated reporting system for all expenditure at that level going forward.

Calls for Public Procurement Bill

Corruption Watch and the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) called for a draft Public Procurement Bill as soon as possible to fight corruption amid recent allegations since the start Covid-19 pandemic.

“While procurement law cannot be a silver bullet, vigorous, swift and decisive debate over the shape and content of the Public Procurement Bill can be more than an important first step towards addressing current and persistent issues in this crucial area of government activity.

“As we have frequently seen over the past few months, our existing procurement system needs a radical overhaul,” Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis and PARI executive director Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi wrote in a joint open letter to president Cyril Ramaphosa and finance minister Tito Mboweni, published on Tuesday (1 September).

“Rather than the current corruption bringing back bad memories of state capture, our experience of state capture has taught us to expect that some public officials are unprincipled enough to exploit their access to public funds for personal gain,” they wrote.

Ramaphosa said on Monday that cadres caught in acts of corruption must explain themselves to the ANC’s integrity commission. Those who give unacceptable explanations may be suspended. And those who are convicted must resign from leadership positions, and face disciplinary actions.

“They have to be serious allegations that are of such a nature that somebody must answer for themselves in a satisfactory matter. Once they have done so the integrity commission must give consideration to what they say and make a decision,” the president said.

Lewis and Buthelezi noted that the current procurement system has “significant weaknesses,” but they believe that the draft bill would overhaul such weaknesses. For it to work, however, requires a “strong political will and direction from yourselves” from Ramaphosa and Mboweni and a willingness to work with all stakeholders.

“We do not sense from government the necessary degree of commitment, urgency, and focus of the public mind which is immediately required on this pivotal issue,” they wrote.

“We now have an opportunity to introduce a new system which can embed the best democratic practices when it comes to the expenditure of public finance. We simply cannot afford to squander this opportunity.”

Read: New voucher system for grants in South Africa

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South Africa has 719 ‘procuring entities’: Treasury