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Dullah Omar Institute Report scrutinises how transparen...

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Maverick Citizen

Dullah Omar Institute Report scrutinises how transparent municipal procurement is

WARDEN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 15: Residents of Ezenzeleni Township ferry water from a tanker due to lack of running water on October 15, 2020 in Warden, South Africa. It is reported that shortage of water and poor service delivery are some of the problems that the Warden Port is facing. (Photo by Gallo Images/Rapport/ Deon Raath)

On Friday, 27 November, the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape and International Budget Partnership South Africa presented their findings in a report titled Transparency in Municipal Procurement.

When there is no transparency there is huge distrust making it even more difficult for municipalities to do their work as they often face backlash from communities. – Shireen de Visser, Stellenbosch Municipality.

The report, which will be released next week, makes a number of key findings and recommendations regarding how municipalities can be more transparent in discharging their procurement processes. 

Executive Director of the Development Action group, Aditya Kumar said that in his experience h the most difficult challenge of government service delivery lies in the procurement process. He said what was important for municipalities to safeguard are funds and that officials needed to employ a “best bang for your buck” approach in order to achieve that. He said that when it came to community members they often had no idea who was in charge of maintaining their municipal services nor did they know how much funding is allocated for various service delivery projects in their own communities.

Kumar said that the process of “open contracting” is a fundamental aspect of service delivery and if this is not conducted in a transparent manner it makes it difficult for people in communities to understand service delivery machinations.

He was unequivocal in stating that the post Covid-19 recovery outlook would require a concerted investment in small businesses and small to medium enterprises, through open procurement practices and transparency in terms of how and to whom funds are allocated.

The report’s research team established that what was key to municipal transparency was ensuring that all municipalities had websites where members of the public could access the information they needed particularly regarding procurement procedures, in fact it was a legal imperative for municipalities to do this.

In establishing this the research team asked a number of key questions such as: Does the municipality have a functional website? Do they publish tender notices and specifications? Do they publish the names of companies and individuals who win tenders?

With regards to the website they found that there were often instances where municipalities would have websites however information would be inaccessible based on it not being updated regularly, not displayed in a chronological manner or that it was inaccurate or even have missing information; this was something that the research team felt was a competency issue and not about capacity.

They also found that some published tender notices were without specifications. Interestingly, Makana Local Municipality and David Kruiper Municipality were the only two municipalities found to regularly and extensively update the tender notices on their websites. Tender specifications were found on only four websites and the names of tender awardees were often inconsistent and incomplete, often being published either monthly, quarterly or annually as opposed to the stipulated “within five days of awarding”.

With regards to the publishing of contract pricing only Nelson Mandela Bay, and City of Johannesburg municipalities consistently published this information. With regard to information on the implementation of projects once tenders have been awarded, municipalities do not make information such as scheduling for projects available making it very difficult  for the community to hold them accountable when it comes to the implementation and finishing of service delivery projects.

The team concluded that while there was most inconsistency in how municipalities went about ensuring accountability and transparency there were a few that could be used as benchmarks for best practice.

Municipal Manager for Overstrand Municipality, Dean O’Neill said that it is also up to the public to dig a little deeper regarding the information they are looking for in order for officials to be accountable to them. For example he said that if you go on municipal websites there is a place where monthly agendas are reported on and included tenders on to the adjudication committee. From a municipal management perspective O’Neill said that officials needed to listen and ensure that they were providing people with what they wanted and needed in terms of service delivery.

“When there is no transparency there is huge distrust,” making it even more difficult for municipalities to do their work as they often face backlash from communities, said Shireen de Visser from Stellenbosch local municipality. She said that supply chain is central to service delivery because it was how the awarding of  projects is coordinated. DM/MC

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