Tendering in Namibia
The current procurement system has been in place in Namibia for over a decade now, during which time no substantial changes have been made to the legislation governing tendering. The rules governing the system of tendering in Namibia are laid down in 3 pieces of legislation:
- Tender Board of Namibia Act (No 16 of 1996)
- Tender Board Regulations (approved in 1996)
- Tender Board of Namibia Code of Procedure (No 191 of 1997).
Although municipalities are governed by additional legislation, nevertheless they are required to follow the national guidelines set by these national laws. The Tender Board of Namibia falls under the Ministry of Finance. The board only deals with the procurement of services where the contract value exceeds N$10 000 (or R10 000 ZAR, as the Namibian Dollar is equivalent to the Rand ZAR). Although such a small minimum amount suggests that the purchase of goods and services may seem very onerous on government departments, the act does make provision for exemptions.
The Namibia Tender Board is a comparatively large board (with over 20 members attending most Board meetings), but attendance of a minimum of 8 members constitutes a quorum. The Tender Board consists mainly of representatives from government offices, ministries and agencies nominated by the Minister of Finance. It is standard practice for the Board to meet once a week. However, there is no requirement that the Board must meet once a week: it is the prerogative of the chair-person of the Board to convene or postpone a meeting of the Board.
The rules of the Tender Board are designed to ensure that tenders are awarded in a fair and accountable way. One aspect of this concerns the provision of sufficient time for bidders to respond meaningfully to a call for tenders. Section 6 of the regulations stipulates that the minimum period from the publication of a tender to the closing date should not be less than 21 days. Although the municipalities and government departments do appear to adhere to this minimum requirement in Namibia, when there is a compulsory site inspection that must be attended within the 21 days, such a timetable might be a bit tight for more complex tenders.
If a member of the Board has an interest in a tender, the member must recuse him- or herself from participating in the adjudication of the tender. If a member of the Board is found guilty of having been involved in awarding a tender in which he or she has a direct interest, that member is liable to a maximum fine of N$500 000 or 10 years imprisonment, or both.
The primary aim of the Tender Board is to ensure that tenders are awarded to the best bid in an open or competitive bidding process. Nevertheless, the procurement policy of Namibia does permit price preferences according to certain socio-economic goals and strategies. The following preferences or reservations apply in Namibia:
- up to 20% preference for goods produced in Namibia
- up to 10% preference for goods assembled in Namibia
- up to 5% preference to persons domiciled or companies incorporated in Namibia
- up to 3% preference for after-sales service provided in Namibia
- up to 3% preference for goods conforming to national or international standards
- Small scale industries: 2% preference if more than 10 but fewer than 25 workers in small scale industries are employed; 3% if more than 24 but fewer than 50 workers are employed; 5% if more than 50 workers are employed
- Employment creation in communal or underdeveloped areas: 2% if more than 10 but fewer than 25 people in communal areas are employed; 3% if more than 24 but fewer than 50 people are employed; and 5% if more than 50 people are employed
- up to 2% preference for Namibian manufacturing companies
- Implementation of approved affirmative action policy: 2 to 3% preference may be granted, depending on the merits of the case, i.e. structured training programmes, employment of women or handicapped people, or other programmes benefiting disadvantaged Namibian citizens.
At present, all government tenders must be published in the Namibian Government Gazette and in at least one newspaper in Namibia. Unfortunately, the Government Gazette only publishes the tender notices after the tenders have expired, which appears to negate the purpose of such a publication. It would appear that the publication of tenders in the Government Gazette is soon to be stopped, once an amendment to the act has been passed.
Since there is no centrally located government source of tender advertisements, tenders are primarily published in the newspapers of Namibia. Following the awarding of the annual contract to the New Era (the government-owned newspaper), a weekly batch of central government tenders is to be published in the New Era over the next year. These tenders are also published once a week on the Ministry of Finance website. The City of Windhoek publishes a weekly batch of tenders â€“ these appear in the Namibian newspapers and are emailed out on the Windhoek Online Tenders service to subscribers. Some parastatals (e.g. Telecom Namibia, NamPower, NamWater) publish their tenders on their websites as well as in the newspapers.
With regard to internet facilities, Namibia is comparatively well connected, although on occasion the system does experience long periods of down-time. So, for instance, during October 2008 a storm knocked down pylons and resulted in Windhoekâ€™s connection being disrupted for a week. This is not surprising when one considers the fact that the United Nations e-Government survey of 2008 found that Africa has the weakest e-government readiness in the world. Nevertheless, within Africa, Southern Africa is regarded as the region with the highest e-government readiness, and Namibia is fairly average in terms of computerisation compared to its neighbouring countries:
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However, at this point no government tenders may be submitted by email or via the internet.
The past two years has seen something of a groundswell of debate about the reporting of corruption, and the Anti-Corruption Commission has been established to help in combating this scourge. Any complaints about corruption in tendering may be reported to:
a) Tender Board, 10 John Meinert Str, Windhoek (tel +26461-2092136), or
b) Anti-Corruption Commission, 12th floor, Frans Indonga Gardens, Bulow Str, Windhoek (tel +26461-396600)
(revised by Mark Townsend in November 2008)