By Emmanuel Mwamba
Last week, Government cancelled a public tender for the supply, delivery, warehousing and distribution of D-compound(basal) and Urea Fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
The tender was conducted under the Open National Bidding procurement method. Six companies were picked as best evaluated. These were; Samar Agro Investments, Stutone Investments, Conchak Investments, Alpha Commodities, Agrizam Investments and Evergreen Fertilisers.
On 9th September 2022, ZPPA Director General Idah Chella announced the cancellation of this tender citing technicalities.
ZPPA said the tender was cancelled because the Ministry of Agriculture Procurement Unit allowed the participation of foreign companies in an Open National Bidding contrary to the Public Procurement Act of 2020, Section 39(2).
The new procurement Act was extensively amended to respond to Zambians who have called for citizen-owned companies to benefit from government procurements. The new Act gives preference to citizen-owned and local companies whenever large-scale government purchases, contracts and works are being procured.
Following the cancellation of this tender, the Ministry of Agriculture strangely abandoned the Open National Bidding method and quickly implemented a fresh process, but under Limited or Direct Bidding ( popularly known as single-sourcing).
Under this procurement, the Ministry has picked six firms; ETG, FSG, United Capital Fertiliser, Alpha Commodities and Agrizam to supply, deliver, warehouse and distribute the fertilizer.
This fresh procurent is against the spirit of the new Public Procurement Act that encourages that all large-scale procurements by Government be given to Zambians or citizen-owned firms or with companies with legal proof of joint venture or participation of citizens.
As can seen above, the Procurement Committee has left out citizen-owned companies that were initially picked and had their contracts approved by the Attorney General pending signing.
Minister of Agriculture, Mtolo Phiri is determined to have these new contracts signed even when both the Act and approval process have not been done in accordance with law.
Within a period of five days, the Ministry of Agriculture has miraculously completed the process from advertising/inviting, selecting, evaluating, and awarding these foreign companies.
It’s a scam, a predermined process.
This raises serious concerns.
When did the ZPPA give consent for the process to be done under Limited Bidding? When was evaluation done? When did Attorney General approve the new draft contracts? Clearly, Hon. Mtolo Phiri and his team are using the urgency of lack of time to perpetuate illegalities, and I dare say engage in corruption.
The Ministry of Agriculture claims that this new procurement was motivated by picking firms whether foreign-owned that allegedly had fertiliser stocks on the ground. If this was true, other named companies with similar capacities would have been on the selected list.
This is procurement of corruption in motion.
I feel pity for officials pushed to do these illegalities as Ministers and State House officials never sign on these documents but it’s the Permanent Secretary and officials that face law enforcement agencies or go to prison for these acts of corruption.
In all this, I recognise that it the national food security which is at stake as the Ministry is late to procure these tenders which they have been fighting over since March this year!