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ODPP under fire over ‘too many’ procurement scandals

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INCREASING reports of procurement scandals in government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have raised questions on the effectiveness of the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP).

In the past two years, there have been both substantiated and unsubstantiated reports of questionable procurement decisions in some government MDAs.

They include the Roads Authority, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and Blantyre Water Board, Lilongwe Water Board and Northern Region Water Board and Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Training Authority (Teveta).

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The Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament said there is a lot of laxity at the ODPP and the two important acts of Procurement and Public Finance Management have been deliberately muted.

“There is a lot of business as usual in that office. They have that attitude that nobody will check  them and they can do whatever they can. [There is]no professionalism,” Pac Vice Chairperson Kamlepo Kalua said.

National Advocacy Platform (Nap) Chairperson, Benedicto Kondowe, said the ODPP has not been independent and the government system has heavily manipulated it.

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“Much as there are clear procedures, what we have seen is that the ODPP has not been able to enforce them,” Kondowe said.

He said the ODPP just grants no objections without scrutinising the requests and Parliament which receives reports from the ODPP also pays no attention to such reports. “This is despite the fact that our huge investment is being abused through procurement,” he said.

National Secretary for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Martin Chiphwanya said the increased procurement-related fraud raises questions on the efficiency of the ODPP.

“This raises serious accountability questions and puts into question the trustworthiness and operating efficiency of the office,” Chiphwanya said.

But Deputy Director in the ODPP Edward Jeke said although the office may have some challenges, the media reports that point at it are “mostly based on misinformation”.

“To have something reported in newspapers or radio stations is one thing but to have it accurately reported is another thing. The bulk of what has been reported in the media is based on misinformation. I think it is lack of knowledge on the way the procurement system is structured and how it works,” Jeke said.

He said there is need for civic education to ensure that Malawians understand the country’s public procurement system so that their criticism should be based on knowledge. “Yes we have our own challenges which we are working on but civic education is also important,” he said.

Kalua said Pac will sit down with the ODPP officials to understand their problems and see what the country can do to redeem the office’s fast declining impact. He hinted on the need for active involvement of the offices of the Auditor General and Attorney General in procurement decisions to ensure transparency and accountability.

Kondowe said there is need for a review of the Procurement Act and Parliament’s attention to procurement reports.

Chiphwanya proposed that the ODPP must quickly be turned into a stand-alone authority and be given more powers for sanctioning MDAs that deliberately flout procurement procedures.

European Union Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann told an Anti-Corruption Conference in Lilongwe on Thursday that the country’s procurement law needs to be reviewed as it is too weak to stamp out the procurement-related corruption happening in the country.

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