Parliament terminates centralization of procurement plans

A victory for devolution
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) scored a significant victory on 5 April 2011 when the house of parliament shot down the recent proposal by the government to centralize procurement and tendering processes in the General Laws Amendment Bill (2010). The house of parliament terminated proposals to centralize all procurements by local authorities after finding plausible arguments in a position paper submitted by BPRA and another submitted by the Zimbabwe Local Government Association. The position paper by BPRA found the proposals to centralize procurement faulty in that they were at loggerheads with global trends towards decentralization and that they reduced measures of accountability and therefore increased the likelihood of corruption and abuse of residents’ money.

On 5 April 2011 the Parliament of Zimbabwe heard separate submissions that were made by BPRA and ZILGA urging Members of Parliament across the board to rescind proposed amendments to the Procurement Bill as outlined in the General Laws Amendment Bill (2010). The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs commenced the Second Reading of the General laws Amendment Bill (H.B. 8, 2010) which sought to, in his words “correct errors, address administrative issues and bring consistencies into statutes affected by other amendments”. Among issues under deliberation in Parliament such as the motion to correct clauses in the Administrative Courts Act, the Judiciary Services Act, the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Ombudsman’s Act, the Police Act, the Civil Aviation Act and the Indigenization Act, the focus was mainly on the Procurement Act (Chapter 22:14). Ideally amendments to the Bill sought to centralize all procurement and tender processes by local authorities to the National Procurement Board. However, that was not to be as the august house rejected the proposed repeals altogether after hearing written submissions from BPRA and ZILGA.

BPRA made submissions to all local governance stakeholders in and around Bulawayo and to Parliament on the 29th of March 2011, making its position clear that the proposal to amend the Procurement Act through the abolishment of Local Procurement Boards was fraught with ambiguities as it would worsen service delivery by local authorities and compromise  efficiency in procurement of goods. The submissions made by BPRA after consultation with residents in Bulawayo came in the wake of mass exodus of companies from Bulawayo to Harare. The association thus saw the centralization of procurement and tendering processes as something that could possible worsen the movement of companies from Bulawayo to Harare as they would want to be where there is more business. 

The motion as moved by Honourable Karenyi, the (MDC-T Member of Parliament for Chimanimani West) who is part of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Legal Affairs reverberated with BPRA’s submission that the proposed amendments were not only flawed, but that they also posed a danger to local governance. After hearing the submissions, the house agreed to annul the proposed changes forthwith.

BPRA celebrates not because it is able to influence national discourse in Parliament but because the Urban Councils Act of 1995 was effective as the law governing the calling for tenders by municipalities. Basically, this act places the responsibility for appointing the Municipal Procurement Board for the municipality (and its members) on the municipal council. BPRA’s stance on the matter is part of the association’s belief in devolution of power and decentralization as fundamental components in fostering participatory democracy.