Assembly approves Bill easing public service procurement |10 December 2022
The National Assembly yesterday voted to approve the Public Procurement (Amendment) Bill 2022, as amended.
The Bill was approved by 15 members while eight abstained from the vote.
As was announced during the 2021 budget address, the Ministry of Finance, National Planning and Trade had started work on the revision of procurement laws with the aim of modernising the laws and rendering it more effective and in line with the principles of good governance and transparent. This is being done in three phases, the first of which comprised amendments to Sections 14 and 99 relating to the appointment of members of the National Tender Board (NTB) and the review panel.
This year, government worked on the second phase, which also comprises the amendment brought before the assembly yesterday. In this amendment, two new definitions have been introduced, one for ‘accounting officer’, and the other being ‘framework contracts’. While the two terms are included in the current law they were not defined, therefore, in a bid to facilitate interpretation of the law the definitions are to be introduced.
As pointed out by Vice-President Ahmed Afif, procurement laws have often been deemed as complicated, in the past and presently, causing much delays in the procurement process of various entities. As such, government has found it necessary to make the procedure simpler.
The first amendment introduces the framework contract concept, applicable to common use items, and repeat procurements throughout the year, such as stationery and paper. The provision will allow entities to enter into a contract lasting between one to three years, under specific terms and conditions which cover delivery. This aims at reducing repeat administrative processes each time that they require such commodities.
Additionally, the Bill introduces the ‘simplified bidding’ provision, which allows for comparison of quotations received. Simplified bidding is expected to help with smaller procurements which do not require lengthy processes such as open tenders. They will however have to be within the threshold of specific entities, as stipulated by the Procurement Oversight Unit (POU).
It must be noted that thresholds were introduced in the 2008 law, and have remain unchanged up until now. Taking into account inflation, government has also found it necessary to amend the thresholds.
Thresholds applicable for goods and services which entities can approve themselves will increase from R150,000 to R250,000. Procurements exceeding R250,000 up to R850,000 will have to be approved by the Procurement Committee, while those above are to be approved by the National Tender Board.
In respect of consultancy services, entities will be able to approve fees up to R75,000, while amounts exceeding R75,000 up to R250,000 are to be approved by the Procurement Committee. The National Tender Board is to approve procurements above R250,000.
As per VP Afif, accounting officers hold the responsibility of ensuring that activities are in line with procurement laws. They are to be held accountable in the event that this is not the case. Government is to also ensure more oversight at ministerial level, with the support of the POU.
Another substantial amendment relates to the duration of time for which a person who has participated in a tender process has to challenge the decision taken regarding who will be awarded the contract. In the actual law, the timeframe is ten days, but the length of time is to be reduced to five days. Bidders will also have five days to go to the review panel.
The POU will be holding sessions early next year to bring all entities up to speed with the provisions of the Bill.
The third and final phase of amendments is scheduled for the last quarter of 2023.