Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Kargbo addresses Procurement Officers from MDAs while Deputy Minister, Momoh Vandi and Senior Deputy Financial Secretary, Prince E.O. Cole look on Some sixty Procurement Officers from across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government have been given stern warning by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu LaminKargbo to either change their old ways of doing business or face the wrath of the law as a consequence.
Minister Kargbo indicted the Procurement Officers as partly responsible for the country’s economic woes as they bloat quotations for goods and services to government. He noted that giving that 70 percent of government’s revenue is expended by through procurement system; he also charged them for being responsible mostly for leakages and wastages of government’s much needed funds.
Minister Kargbo was speaking at a workshop for Procurement Cadre at his Ministry’s Conference hall on Thursday, 9th March, 2017.
He warned that if they do not change their ways, he will not hesitate to withhold funds to their respective MDAs especially if their procurement plans do not conform to speculations in the new Public Financial Management (PFM) Act 2016, the 2017 Government Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies.
The Procurement Officers were at the workshop to draw sufficient knowledge from these procurement legal instruments, understand properly their roles and responsibilities in the public procurement sector and how public procurement impacts on public financial management. The workshop championed by the Public Procurement Directorate of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, also aimed instilling transparency in the officers and improving competitiveness and value for money in public procurement.
Minister Kargbo threatened to withhold any procurement plan that falls short of the accepted standard format that takes into consideration all legal specifications.
“All Procurement Officers stand indicted for the country’s economic woes. The sad thing about this is that the public is aware about this trend and it is nauseating. People should be seen to be working for the good of their country; the country that all of us sing aloud to as the land that we love,” Minister Kargbo pointed out, while reemphasizing that he will not hesitate to block funds to any MDA whose procurement plan is improper.
He recalled that the Public Finance Management Act (PFM Act) is in place to address fiscal mismanagement and that it empowers the Minister to take certain “appropriate measures” to address such situations.
“The chips will only fall if the Procurement Officers perform their jobs responsibly. He encouraged the officers to be study the Act alongside the National Public Procurement Act thoroughly, such that they know what their responsibilities are and how to apply them without fear of intimidation.
He went on to assure the Procurement Officers of their protection within the law if they feel threatened by their senior officers or politicians in their sector of responsibility. “The law is there to protect you and you must be seen to be working within the confines of those laws in the interest of the country,” Minister Kargbo implored. He maintained that the present low remuneration of Procurement Officers is mainly due to their attitudes and behaviours towards public procurement. He informed them that to address their welfare is not as difficult as addressing their attitudes and behaviours towards public procurement.
He promised to look into the issue of welfare for the officers, but beseeched them to change their ways to give justification for any salary increment that might have budgetary implications.
Earlier, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momoh Vandi, while declaring the workshop open, pointed out to the participants the significance of the workshop, noting that it is aimed at making them understanding the various roles of and responsibilities across the procurement system and making them aware of the key public procurement reforms and strategic priorities of Government. He reminded the participants of the challenge of ensuring transparency and achieving value for money in public procurement. He noted, this has elicited “considerable debate” particularly pertaining to the bidding processes, awards of contracts, institutional and professional weaknesses or gaps experienced or identified within the procurement process and the procurement system.
For his part, the Director of Public Procurement in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. FodieKonneh recalled “the appalling conditions” under which some Procurement Officers work, noting the lack of computers, cabinets, files, etc in the offices assigned to them in their various MDAs.
He therefore appealed for consideration to be given to the salary aspect of the officers, pointing out that an increase in their salaries will motivate them to resist temptations and undue influences from their higher bosses, contractors and politicians. He also laid emphasis on protection for Procurement Officers to give them leverage to do their best for the country.
As chairman of the occasion, Mr. Prince E.O. Cole noted that the new PFM Act and the 2017 Budgetary Statement of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development have changed the modus operandi in procurement processes and the procurement system, stressing that any infraction will be deemed illegal and is bound to meet consequences.
He encouraged participants to participate fully in the workshop so that they can be aware of the importance of having things done according to law, noting that the art of procurement is a serious business to Government as it accounts for seventy percent of government’s revenue.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.