Public procurement bill still a long way off

There is wide-spread agreement regarding the fact that South Africa desperately needs legislation to ensure public and private sector procurement compliance. Recently, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) reported that between April 2020 and June 2021, government spend amounted to R138.8 billion, of which R14.8 billion was under investigation for procurement irregularities. This figure does not include more recent revelations that has come to light. The Public Procurement Bill tabled in Parliament has seen a delay, postponing improved transparency in public procurement. Critics have noted that although the bill is in line with Article 9 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) that emphasises transparent procurement, competition, and objective criteria, the bill is vague on accessibility of procurement information and public involvement. Civil society stakeholders have also noted concerns around confidentiality clauses, the need to update terminological loopholes that could be exploited, the lack of provisions dealing with transgressions, and the capacity to set up a regulatory framework.

The bill was subjected to several reviews and discussion in Parliament. Treasury envisages that the bill will only be passed by Parliament in November 2022. The critical legislation is aimed at creating a single and overarching framework to govern public procurement in order to give better effect to the constitutional procurement principles of fairness, equitability, transparency, competitiveness, and cost-effectiveness.