Panellists at a forum on public procurement have called for a review of the public procurement Act to curb growing incidences of procurement corruption in the public sector.
They included Dr Eric Oduro-Osae, Director General, Internal Audit Agency; Kobina Ata-Bedu, Procurement Expert; Collins Agyemang Sarpong, President of Ghana Institute of Procurement and Supply; Stella Aku Addo, Country Manager, Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply; Manasseh Azure Awuni, Editor-in-Chief, The Fourth Estate and Eric Victor Appiah, Compliance Monitoring and Evaluation, Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
The forum, organised in Accra yesterday, was to discuss a report developed by Imani Ghana and the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACRP) titled “Is the Public Procurement system hurting or saving the public purse.”
Dr Osae argued that the Act had made public procurement more expensive than it should be due to numerous structures in the procurement process, including tender committee and central committee.
He explained that the structures only resulted in prolonging a procurement cycle which gave rise to corrupt practices.
He said a holistic and systemic review of the Act was necessary because the current provision did not give the country value for money.
“Enforcement mechanisms are lacking and there exist very expensive structures in procurement processes. Who pays the allowances of all the members of the various committees? Why should it take three months to complete a procurement cycle?” Dr Osae stated.
He faulted procurement oversight agencies for not acting enough to tackle corruption, and charged them to intensify enforcement.
He advocated the detachment of the Attorney General Office from the Ministry of Justice to ensure that prosecution and sanctions for persons involved in procurement fraud was not compromised.
Ms Addo said a review of the Act should be people-centred to address issues on ethics, which was critical in protecting the country’s resources.
Where necessary, she noted that, sanctions must be applied to the latter to deter other practitioners from perpetuating other criminal offences.
In the meantime, she said it was essential that the operations of all professional bodies, currently operating in silos, be harmonised to enable the development of a code of ethics to regularise public procurement.
Ms Addo decried delays in payment to suppliers, saying it was one of the factors which bred corruption and urged the PPA to lead in ensuring standards were enforced.
Another panel member, Mr Sarpong questioned why single source was the most dominant process for procurement in the public sector, despite it becoming a conduit for corruption.
He reiterated the need for a legislation to guide procurement practice and advised practitioners to remain professional in their dealings.
Expressing concern about the failure of the PPA to conduct due diligence on some government contract, Mr Awuni said that such situations questioned the existence of the Authority.
Despite concerns about single source, he said scrapping it was not the ideal solution and called for effective regulation to make it efficient.
He advocated a review of the processes leading to the constitution of the PPA board to deal with political interference in their work.
Mr Ata-Bedu reiterated the need for a legislation to regulate procurement practices, and proposed that members of the PPA Board should be persons trained, and experienced in the area or procurement to fight infractions that mostly result in corruption.
On his part, Mr Appiah said the PPA was currently working on dealing with challenges identified in procurement in the public sector, adding that an engagement with all professional bodies was underway towards certifying all practitioners.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS