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TIZ calls for end to overpricing in public procurement

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia says many people view government as a milking cow when they are awarded contracts to supply goods and services.

And the TIZ has advised government procurement agencies to stop the trend of overpricing goods and services being purchased by the government.

The government has announced that $1.2 billion would be spent on the 321 kilometre Lusaka-Chingola dual carriageway, yet experts reveal this distance could be worked on for not more than $600 million, questioning the reasons behind the contract cost.

In a statement, TIZ executive director Wesley Chibamba challenged government to be more accountable to citizens, especially with regard to public resource management.

He stated that public procurements were the main area of concern.

“As the largest consumer of different goods and services, the government spends a lot of money on public procurements and loses a lot of that money in the process. The government has a responsibility to be diligent and prudent in the way they spend taxpayers’ money,” Chibamba stated. “What is of concern is a trend of government agencies procuring goods and services at non-market reflective costs. Always when government is procuring goods and services, they do so at astronomical amounts, which do not reflect the market value. Even simple things like stationery, or the shirts for Labour Day or any other public events, these items are procured at very high prices, probably double the normal amount if you were to buy the same product at an open market.”

He stated that even in construction, Zambia was always paying higher contract amounts than what should be normal comparatively in the region, especially in the road sector.

“The trend should not be allowed to continue. Usually this is as a result of collusion between suppliers/contractors and the people in charge of procurements. People are viewing government as a milking cow when they are awarded contracts to supply goods and services,” Chibamba stated. “There is a lot of corruption in the awards processes of these contracts. On top of that, the corrupt lot still exploits government by charging exorbitant prices for their goods and services. There is a clique of people that feel entitled to be awarded government contracts to supply goods and services simply because they support the ruling party. Whatever the case, this amount of exploitation should end forthwith.”

He stated that such level of institutionalisation of corruption should come to an end.

Chibamba urged all government departments and agencies to engage in business transactions that were premised on integrity.

He stated that if the government was procuring goods and services at ‘normal’ prices and not exaggerated, exorbitant prices, they would have more resources to obtain more goods and services.

“Also this would free resources to be redirected towards other competing interests for which there are no resources. We can manage to provide decent public services to the citizens if we can manage the meagre resources very well,” stated Chibamba.

“We are therefore calling for institutional, legal and policy reforms around public procurements. Transparency International Zambia is ready to work with the government in bringing about these reforms such that public procurements work for the Zambian people and not the corrupt few with ties to government officials. The government has a responsibility to obtain value for money in every transaction.”

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