May 27, 2009, 9:48 AM
Our yesterday's lead story featuring the views of Hon. Netty Baldeh, National Assembly Member for Tumana, has elicited an instantaneous reaction from the management of Gambia Public Procurement Authority, the main subject of the story that centres on the fate of bills passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the executive. In the story the Honourable NAM for Tumana alluded to a concern about GPPA's capacity to achieve the goals it has been set by virtue of the nature of its mandate which, he argued, provides for the institution to register companies even as the Attorney General's Chambers does so. The full text of the rejoinder is reproduced hereunder:
The Director General and management of Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) issue this rejoinder with the view to shed light on the misleading personal view expressed by Hon Netty Baldeh from Tumana, concerning the GPPA's mandate, during a National Assembly session and printed in The Point Newspaper on the 15th day of April 2008.
First and foremost, management deems it prudent to react to Hon. Netty Baldeh's allegations that the implementation of the GPPA, "seems to be centralizing the possibility of corruption," and "it is most possibly easier to corrupt one person than to corrupt fifty other persons." These baseless accusations which have been levied against the integrity of the GPPA, its Board of Directors and staff emanate from a dispute between a representative of Watermann Afrika AG Company limited (a company owned by Hon Netty Baldeh) and the GPPA data entry clerk.
Section 25 of the GPPA Act, requires that, "in order to be awarded a procurement contract, local suppliers shall be registered in accordance with Regulations made under this Act." In order to comply with this provision, a representative of Watermann and Hon Netty Baldeh visited the GPPA on the 7th and 8th day of April 2008, in order to fulfil this requirement. During the registration process however, there was a disagreement with regards to the classification of the services, which his company was to supply the Government of The Gambia. However, Hon Netty Baldeh was insistent on registering civil engineering and water and gas installation on the certificate. However as the GPPA separate services as per fees and certificates this was not possible and senior management was consulted resulting in Hon Netty Baldeh registering only the civil engineering business.
Any fears harboured by Hon Netty Baldeh that the GPPA is an institution which is easily corruptible should have been allayed by the resolved insistence on the part of the data entry clerk and senior management that due procedure be followed despite his continued resistance to abide by the rules and regulations.
The Hon Netty Baldeh also expressed disappointment, "with the slow implementation of some statutes that have already passed through the National Assembly and the Cabinet.... One such legislation that has just gone through this house a couple of months ago is the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) legislation."
For clarification purposes, the GPPA Act was passed in 2001 and came into force in July 2003 and NOT "a couple of months ago" as incorrectly stated by Hon Netty Baldeh. In addition, Hon Netty Baldeh's allegation that the GPPA Act has not been implemented efficiently reflects his lack of familiarity with the GPPA, its objectives and its steady inclination towards curbing corruption. Hon Netty Baldeh's belief that the GPPA is mandated to curb corruption at the level of tender is incorrect. The GPPA's five objectives as prescribed in the act are to provide a system for ensuring -
(a) transparent, efficient and economic public procurement;
(b) accountability in public procurement;
(c) a fair opportunity to all prospective suppliers of goods, works and consultancy services;
(d) the prevention of fraud, corruption and other malpractices in public procurement; and
(e) Improvements in social and economic capacity in The Gambia, including providing opportunities for local small enterprises and individuals to participate in an economic manner as suppliers, contractors and subcontractors in public procurement.
Furthermore, these objectives are not effected only "at the level of tender" as inaccurately stated by Hon Netty Baldeh but rather throughout the entire procurement process the purpose of which is to ensure that procurement are conducted in accordance with the objectives of the Act.
Hon Netty Baldeh should accept and appreciate Government's concerns, which resulted in the Minor, and Major tender boards being rendered inefficient must have been valid. Surely, Hon Netty Baldeh means not to insinuate that government of the Gambia would not have instigated the closing down of an institution has then been "working very well," as he put it for any other purposes than effectiveness and efficiency. Furthermore, Hon Netty Baldeh should note that GPPA's role differs greatly from that of the Minor and Major tender boards in that the latter undertook procurements on behalf of procuring organisations whereas the former simply regulates and monitors the procurement process. The GPPA's indirect role in the procurement decisions therefore render it impossible for them to be corrupted.
The Hon. Netty Baldeh continues to reveal his complete lack of knowledge about the GPPA by stating that "the GPPA legislation needed reviewing with a view to ensuring a corrupt free institution that will be able to monitor the process of tendering without being directly involved in the provision of goods and services."
The GPPA is an autonomous agency of the Government responsible for the regulation and monitoring of public procurement in the Gambia. It should be noted that the GPPA at no point in time takes decisions with regards to the award of contracts. Section 14(2) strictly prohibits the GPPA's interference in the award of contracts by stating, "In the exercise of its powers, the Authority shall not interfere in the award of any specific procurement contract...."
It therefore does not make any sense for a supplier to attempt to corrupt any GPPA officials as the decision to award contracts to suppliers is taken by the procuring organisations. The GPPA's sole role is to ensure that due process is followed by procuring organisation in order to achieve and sustain transparency, accountability, efficiency and economic public procurement.
The only circumstance where the GPPA is mandated to interfere with the award of a contract where the contract has not already been awarded is where a legitimate complaint is lodged by a supplier and the said supplier is found to have a just cause for review. In such circumstances, the below listed options are available to the GPPA.
Section 55 (6) Unless a complaint is dismissed, the remedies that may be ordered by the Authority include -
(a) prohibiting the procuring organisation from acting or deciding in an authorised manner or from following incorrect procedure;
(b) annulling in whole or in part any unauthorised act or decision of a procuring organisation, other than any act or decision bringing the procurement contact into force;
(c) reversing a decision by the procuring organisation or substituting its own decision for such a decision, other than any decision bringing the procurement contract into force;
Hon Netty Baldeh states, "I didn't think for fair competition they would themselves be registering companies to provide services and works." It is not clear how fair competition is affected by suppliers registering with the GPPA. Indeed these companies register with the Department of State for Justice; however the purposes of these registrations are completely unrelated. The GPPA requires registration by suppliers who wish to provide goods, works or services to public institutions.
The primary reason for the registration is to protect the Government of The Gambia. The GPPA ensures that the monies that public institutions pay these suppliers for their goods, works and services are protected in accordance with section 3 of the Act. The Authority is mandated to protect the Government from actual or potential harm by excluding a potential supplier or bidder from participation in public procurement for a minimum period of one year and a maximum period of five years in accordance with section 29 of the Act where the said supplier or bidder does not provide value for money.
In accordance with Section 4 (b) of the Act, the GPPA Board of Directors are appointed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of The Gambia, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Finance and Economic Affairs and the persons who are appointed to the board are in the opinion of President of the Republic of The Gambia, people who are not only of high integrity but with extensive experience in the field of public procurement, in accordance with section 4(a) of the Act. This Board comprising of the distinguished and highly respected members of the society are entrusted with the responsibility of appointing the staff of GPPA. It is therefore with great dismay and disappointment that the GPPA Board of Directors and staff are forced to defend their integrity and assure the members of the general public that any decision or action taken during the course of their duties is in accordance with the law and due process.
The GPPA would expect that the Hon Netty Baldeh as a National Assembly member and an individual in the public domain whose words carry weight would take the responsibility of verifying and clarifying certain information before expressing it to the general public. As an institution which is mandated to ensure transparency and accountability it is essential that the GPPA is regarded as an institution of integrity and impartiality. Therefore to plague the GPPA with allegations of corruption and inefficiency without an iota of evidence is regrettable and uncalled-for on the part of the Hon Netty Baldeh. Furthermore, as the National Assembly is the body that enacted the GPPA, the GPPA would expect that members of this august body would protect and support the institution instead of expressing invectives and innuendos.