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Comment on the Public Procurement Bill – hurry up, there’s only one day left

Comment on the Public Procurement Bill – hurry up, there’s only one day left
South Africans have one day left to comment on the Public Procurement Bill. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

After nearly a decade in the making, the Public Procurement Bill is currently being processed by Parliament, and the call for public comments is now open. 

The Public Procurement Bill has been in the making since 2014, but you will need to be quick if you are going to weigh in on the bill. On 18 August, Parliament put out a call for submissions on the draft bill to be made by no later than 12:00 on Monday, 11 September 2023. Public hearings will be held on 12 and 13 September 2023.

There’s only one day left.

Given how central public procurement is to enabling public service provision, this Bill is a significant piece of legislation. It has been a missing feature in the landscape, as there has not been overarching framework legislation covering both general public procurement processes and preferential public procurement. 

The long-awaited draft bill is therefore a welcome piece of legislation. However, there are areas in which it can still be strengthened through public participation, which is where active citizenry comes in. 

The Budget Justice Coalition urges the public to comment on this bill. Aside from an anti-corruption imperative, there is also a service delivery dimension, which makes this an excellent opportunity for individuals, organisations or civic formations to play a part in ensuring that a robust piece of legislation is passed. 

The way procurement is conducted and regulated plays a sizeable role in determining the quality of service and goods delivery – access to clean drinking water, learners receiving a quality education, hospitals and clinics operating with the required equipment – public procurement is part of what makes these things happen. 

The draft bill has seven chapters. Written in a relatively accessible manner, the bill envisions the establishment of a Public Procurement Office similar in nature to the current Office of the Chief Procurement Officer. It sets out the functions and duties of provincial treasuries and procuring institutions. 

Chapter 3 deals with enhancing procurement integrity by providing that certain procurement practices can be prohibited but does not go as far as outlining which practices these might be. Sections that deal with the conduct of persons involved in procurement, due diligence and declarations of interest, undue influence, directions inconsistent with the act, automatic exclusion from procurement and debarment make for an improved procurement ecosystem. 

Chapter 4 of the bill deals with preferential procurement. The bill aligns with the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, 2003 and the constitutional imperative for transformation.

Chapter 5 deals with general procurement provisions including the use of technology in procurement and access to procurement processes and information. The bill contains some sections which may have the effect of hindering transparency, while simultaneously other sections emphasise its importance. Whether it manages to effectively achieve the dual aims of protection of personal information on the one hand and an open data ethos on the other merits closer analysis. 

A new feature that is envisioned in the bill is the establishment of a Public Procurement Tribunal to deal with dispute resolution. This is set out in Chapter 6. 

The final chapter, Chapter 7, covers general provisions including regulations and transitional measures. Fairly high level in nature, the bill provides for a lot to be dealt with in codes of conduct, regulations, and instructions.

To obtain the draft bill and find out more about how to make a submission, see the call for public comments here. DM

Kirsten Pearson is an activist and development practitioner. She writes in her capacity as a member of the Budget Justice Coalition.

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