70% contracts elude vetting
The Government Contracting Unit (GCU) in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) has said about 70 percent of government contracts avoid passing through it for vetting.
GCU Director Vincent Sikelo disclosed this in Lilongwe on Wednesday when the department appeared before the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee of Parliament.
The committee wanted to establish if at all the GCU is responsible for the delays in the utilisation of K6 billion realised from tollgates meant for the rehabilitation of the M1 Road.
Sikelo told the committee that the three contracts for rehabilitating three sections of the M1 road are yet to reach his office.
According to Sikelo, most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) avoid passing through the GCU with their procurement contracts.
“The issue of bypassing has been there since this office was established. Our office we scrutinise contacts without looking at who is being given the contract. We do professional jobs. The moment they know that these contracts, their interests will not be attended to, they will bypass us because we don’t have a law.
“We were established under Administrative Orders, which is also a law. But MDA they would rather attend to issues that are governed by the law, which we are working on to have a law in contract management so that our office is given a full mandate to call upon these people if they bypass the vetting process,” Sikelo said.
He observed that since the creation of the GCU followed an Administrative Order, the law requires that the controlling officer of the institution bypassing the GCU to be summoned by the Secretary to President and Cabinet to explain why contracts are not being vetted.
Asked whether any of the controlling officers responsible for the 70 percent contracts have been summoned to explain the misconduct, Sikelo said no.
He attributed the challenge to the situation to delays in establishing who should meet these people.
Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee of Parliament Chairperson Bintony Kuntsaira said the committee will communicate to Parliament about the development.
According to Kuntsaira, the development is news to the committee.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency and Accountability (CSAT) Executive Director Willy Kambwandira said their great concern is that the levels of vetting are just extensive, and strongly believe this only delays the procurement processes and cultivates corruption and fraud.
According to Kambwandira, some of the vetting entities have been deliberately established to create antagonistic forces and undue delays to the procurement processes, and this is what is driving corruption, bribery and other fraudulent activities in the procurement.
“Some of these vetting entities have conflict of interests, and no wonder some MDAs shun them,” Kambwandira said.
The revelation by GCU that some MDAs are sidestepping them comes barely less than a month after a study by Luanar, Ecama and Oxfam revealed that Malawi lost K6 trillion between 2012 to 2021 due to poor management of public contracts.