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On the spot - Smoothing tender institution’s processes, systems

2022-06-10  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

On the spot - Smoothing tender institution’s processes, systems

New Era (NE) recently met with Amon Ngavetene (AN), the acting head of the Central Procurement Board of Namibia who was recently appointed to the position for three months, to speak about his objectives and plans to restore public trust in this critical national institution.

NE: The name Amon Ngavetene keeps popping up time and again. In a nutshell, who is Amon Ngavetene?

AN: I was born in Okakarara and grew up at a village called Ombuyovakuru. I started school at Waterberg Primary School till grade 8 and proceeded to Okakarara Secondary for grades 9 and 10. Thereafter, I matriculated at Ella du Plessis. 

I am a holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, an Honours Degree in Law (LLB). I have successfully completed my Justice Training Centre (JTC) practical hours. At the moment, I am trying to finalise my thesis for a Master of Law in Corporate Governance. 

I have previously held various positions in corporate entities mostly focusing on governance, compliance, and risk management at Standard Bank, Social Security, and Bank BIC. 

NE: You were recently appointed as the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) acting chairperson, for three months. How are you adjusting to your new position?

AN: The Procurement Act is now before parliament for review and amendment. The amendment will make provision for the position of the CEO which at the moment is embedded into the chairperson’s portfolio. 

As we wait for the said amendment, I am acting as the chairperson for three months or for as long as it takes for the amended law to be promulgated into law. 

I have been conducting 360 degrees review of the institution. The first task was really to look at the work culture of the organisation. I have been focusing on stabilising the industrial relations aspects. This is to provide assurance to the employees that there is leadership and to instill a sense of pride and hope.  

Thirdly, I have been focusing on reviewing business processes and systems. This is to identify bottlenecks and implement the remedial measures to enhance operational efficiency. 

It is clear the organisation has potential and with the right mindset, work culture, and systems, the organisation will become one of the greatest institutions in the country. 

NE: What are some of the most critical goals you have for this vital national institution?

AN: These are some of the goals which I will immediately focus on; to instill public trust and confidence in the organisation. This means that our decisions should always stand the test of fairness, rationality, and legality. 

We are also looking at drastically reducing the turnaround time. As an institution providing critical service to the country, we cannot continue to take a whole year to award a contract. 

This means we need to harness and mainstream our processes. It also means doing whatever we do consistently, the first time right.  This will diminish the back-and-forth instructions or even the review application. 

We also want to make the CPBN one of the best companies to work for. This will enable the CPBN to attract the best skills in the industry. CPBN’s public outlook should match its statutory significance. 

Furthermore, we are also looking at making the CPBN a model of procurement. Our skills and abilities should not be in doubt, and we should always be referred to as the centre of excellence. 

NE:  Recently, the CPBN came under fire for employing persons from one tribe only. As a result, some people have lost faith in the institution. How do you intend to re-establish public confidence in this crucial institution?

AN: Following the ombudsman’s adjudication on the matter, the board has reflected on this issue. The organisation will, going forward, review the demographic composition of that particular department (which has advertised the position) and makes a determination in a manner that will help the organisation to achieve equity and equality.

When the opportunity presents itself to correct the imbalances, we will do so, whether is imbalances from a racial perspective, gender, or tribal or regional grouping. I strongly believe that as human beings, we better ourselves through diversity. 

NE: What is the purpose of a totally transparent procurement process for government entities?

AN: A transparent procurement process has multiple benefits. Firstly, it enhances the principles of fairness and natural justice. These principles are critical in ensuring equal distribution of resources to all Namibians. This will ultimately have a further impact on the formation of the Namibian house. 

A transparent process is also key in terms of enhancing public trust and confidence in the institution. If the process is not transparent, it discourages bidders from participating, thus impeding competition. 

Furthermore, a non-transparent process impugns efficiency and ultimately our ability to render essential services to the needy. It is also important to note that a transparent process inhibits corruption and therefore saves the scarce government resources. 

NE: What are some of the main challenges at the operational level for the CPBN that emanate from bidding companies and the awarding of tenders and how do you aim to overcome these challenges?

AN: The clarity between the board and the various public entities on the procurement process is still an issue. There is a need to create a common understanding of the mandates and processes. 

The process from advertising to the awarding of the contract takes long and is unnecessary. At times, it takes up to a year for a contract to be awarded albeit at times being a procurement process for critical government services such as health and education. 

Our people who are at times indigent might as a matter of urgency need these services now and not tomorrow. So, there is a need to harness this process. 

The other key operational impediment to our efficiency is the fact that our bid evaluation is done by external evaluators. This means that they are not employees of the CPBN. 

We are therefore always dependent on their availability. This kind of institutional arrangement is great if we are to ensure that the process is credible, fair, transparent, and above board. We just need to instill a culture of sense of duty towards the country amongst the bid evaluation committee members. 

NE: What progress has been made to ban government officials and directors of public entities from bidding for government tenders at State institutions where they are employed?

AN: In terms of the existing Act (Act No.15 of 2015), there is no such a prohibition. But such a prohibition is included in the new amendments, specifically Section 28 (2B). 

But obviously, the amendment Act is still being debated by the legislative houses. This provision will only become applicable once the amendment Act is promulgated into law. 

NE: What changes, if any, would you like to see that give the CPBN more authority in terms of managing government tenders?

AN: There is a great piece of a legislative framework now which really grants the board an authority to manage government tenders. Coupled with the suggested amendments, it will really enhance the efficiency of the board. 

Given this conducive enabling legislative environment, the only thing that we need to get right as an institution is the work culture. We need to work on a human factor to perfect our work. This is inculcating a work culture, a sense of duty, work ethics, and a positive attitude. 

2022-06-10  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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