The inclusion of the K56 million funds to the Government Contracts Negotiating Unit in the 2017/2018 budget estimates for the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) has raised eyebrows on the operations and relevance of such a unit.
The Treasury officials allege that the unit is actively operating in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) but despite defending its budgetary allocation, the ODPP officials said the unit does not have any space within the office and does not perform what the office does.
During the week, the unit received a backlash from some members of the commissions and public appointments cluster of Parliament.
They believe the unit is irrelevant and the money allocated to it just goes down the drain.
The unit, which has no legal backing, was set up during the time of former president Joyce Banda in 2012 to ‘assist government to effectively negotiate contracts’ to the benefit of Malawians.
The unit, which was at that time condemned for duplicating roles, has an oversight role.
Among others, it is mandated to negotiate and provide oversight roles in all contracts including construction, provision or supply of goods and services, concessions and all such agreements that place an obligation on government or have an impact on resources and endowment of Malawi.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkhata Bay Central, Raphael Mhone asked about the working relationship between the ODPP and the unit.
“Why is the allocation for this unit part of your budget allocation? How can we be sure that the approved money is really going to unit? Under what law was this unit established?” Mhone queried.
The Director of Public Procurement Paul Taulo and his deputy Edward Jeke said they are not sure about the reason for the unit’s inclusion in ODPP budget but the situation has been like that for some time.
“They work as a totally separate entity. Maybe as lawmakers you may be better placed to know the existence of such an arrangement,” Jeke said.
Some lawmakers including MP for Zomba Central Patricia Kainga Nangozo said the arrangement is suspicious and needs to be scrutinised and normalised through proper legal provisions.
Mhone said the country cannot move on with such chaotic arrangement and the two entities should push for the review of the policy that guides their operations.
“It is clear that these two bodies are failing to recognise each other but at the same time they are using each other’s funding purposes. We need to review this relationship,” Mhone said.
Nsanje South lawmaker Thom Kamangira accused the ODPP of offering no objections to cheap contractors thereby compromising road construction projects.
“You are denting the image of my party, the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] by allowing bad engineers in road projects,” Kamangira said.
But Jeke said the problem is emanating from poor engineering estimates and not the no objections decisions from the ODPP.