The Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) has released a booklet designed to help businesses understand the municipal procurement process, and what their rights are if they suspect irregularities.
Kris Dobie, Manager: Organisational Ethics Development at EthicsSA, who co-authored ‘Understanding the municipal procurement process: A guide for businesses’ with Namhla Xinwa, says the booklet aims to simplify the procurement procedures and to make businesses aware of the regulations that are intended to foster transparency and accountability in the process. “If businesses know their rights they can hold municipalities accountable to follow the procedures correctly.”
Municipalities spend billions of rands every year in procuring products and services from companies both large and small. Many companies find themselves at a disadvantage because they do not fully understand the often-complex tender processes, or how to question what they see as irregularities in the awarding of tenders.
Dobie points out that there is strong evidence of irregularities in the municipal procurement process, as shown by the persistently high number of qualified audit reports for municipalities issued by the Auditor General. As a result, government has introduced numerous checks and balances to help prevent corruption, but these also introduce complexity into the tender process. The EthicsSA booklet provides a clear guide to each step in the process, and how to raise questions.
One practical example of how a business can keep track of the process is to be present when the tender box is opened. That way, it will have first-hand knowledge of submitted bids and what their value was. Armed with this knowledge, it is then easy to check that the eventual award of the tender dovetails with the original bids.
It’s also very important to recognise that many companies are unaware of their obligations in terms of keeping the tender process fair and above board, and the booklet also spells out businesses’ responsibilities. These include avoiding anti-competitive business practices, BEE fronting and conflicts of interest. It also deals with the ever-present topic of gifts and entertainment. Dobie warns that even relatively low-cost gifts or entertainment could be construed as bribes.
“We would like to see the booklet become a reference document for all businesses doing work with municipalities and have made it available for free download on our website. We encourage business chambers and other business bodies to distribute the booklet to their members.”
“Creating an ethical tender system that is fair to all depends on strong mutual accountability, something this booklet will advance if used correctly,” Dobie ends. “We aim to empower business by making it aware not only of how the process should work and what to do if it suspects irregularities, but also by pinpointing its own responsibilities.”
To download the booklet, click here.
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