- PAC report condemns two centres of power
According to the report, there are two centres around COVID-19 procurements and wonders why the Office of the President (OP) allowed such a situation to take hold. Compiled by the Chairman of the PAC, Dithapelo Keorapetse, who is the MP for Selibe-Phikwe West, the report raises concern about the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration.
“The Committee has noted that there are two centres for COVID-19 procurement, being the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Task Force Team in the Office of the President,” it says “The Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID-19 Task Team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in COVID-19 procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic.”
The report states that the Accounting Officer at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs stated that the Task Team was engaged for procurement of quarantine facilities, thus assisting the Ministry of Health because of its heavy workload.
According to the PAC report, the OP Accounting Officer said direct appointment for tenders “used because COVID-19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health. This however, is not the case as there have been reports of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts”.
Consequently, because it believes use of direct procurement tends to encourage inflated prices, the PAC has advised against except in exceptional cases. Although no recommendation is made regarding meddling of the COVID-19 Task Team in procurement of COVID-19 supplies, the PAC report advises the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration to make COVID-related tenders transparent.
“In order to ensure transparency and accountability, all COVID-19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies,” notes the report. “With the passage of time, the impact of COVID-19 is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted.”
To deal with inflating prices, the PAC has recommended that judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than market prices. Meanwhile, as Botswana faces soaring figures of Omicron infections, the Presidential Task Team continues to give weekly updates on the state of COVID-19 in Botswana. Detractors of the Task Force have always accused the Dr Kereng Masupu-led team of being the President’s favourite and blame it for key civil servants losing their jobs.