Panelists at a workshop on procurement and fiscal decentralisation in Ghana have called for a complete overhaul of the Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act 663) to ensure a clear demarcation between procurement procedures at the central and local government levels.
Leading the call for the overhaul, Benjamin Kumbuor, NDC MP for Lawra-Nandom, said the existing law seemed to place final decisions in the public procurement process in the hands of the central government structures such as the Public Procurement Board (PPB) and the Regional Tender Boards (RTB) to the detriment of the District Tender Committees (DTC) and individual entities like the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies(MMDAs).
The workshop, organised by Public Agenda, an Accra-based newspaper, was under the broad theme: "Decentralisation in Ghana III".
It focused on making the Procurement Act 2003 more relevant to Ghana's fiscal decentralisation process through consensus building.
Mr Kumbuor noted that as each of the 110 districts had their own peculiarities in terms of development requirement, it was necessary to ensure that the law allowed peculiar procurement processes for each district.
He said: "The law should have provided the broad structures for procurement in the country and have a proviso that allows each district to draw up their own procedures to meet their own peculiar situation."
Mr Kumbuor pointed out that in Lawra, for instance, due to inadequate lawyers, the Attorney-General's Department continued to represent entities in tender procedures at the district level. "This is wrong because the A-G cannot represent competing entities.
The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Bole, Ms Elizabeth Salamatu Fogo, said members of the DTC had very little training in the procurement law and procedures and this made it difficult for them to oversee the procurement processes efficiently.
She called for more training for DTC members and also recommended that presiding members and District Magistrates should be made members of the DTC to ensure openness and proper legal efficiency of the committees.
Kofi Osei Ameyaw, NPP MP for Asuogyaman, faulted the procurement process, saying in his constituency he was once almost compelled to sign a tender document, which had questionable content.
He said the monitoring and evaluation powers of the Regional Tender Board (RTB) and the PPB created the impression that the final decision in a tender process lay with the central government, adding that those powers should be taken from the central government agencies.
Mr Anim Boateng Adjei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PPB, said the law placed the final decision in the procurement process in the hands of the various entities including the MMDAs and the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
He said there was a proposed amendment from the PPB, which sought to streamline the process in such a way to ensure that the central government agencies in the procurement structure only existed to review procedures suspected to have been circumvented.
Mr Adjei said the proposed amendment also sought to reduce the number of qualified legal procurement entities by about one-third from about 1,500 to 1,000 entities.
He assured participants that the proposed amendments, other than a complete overhaul, would ensure efficiency in the public procurement process.
Mr Ebenezer Essilfie from the Awutu-Efutu-Senya District Assembly described Mr Kumbuor's call for a complete overhaul of the public procurement Act as unacceptable, saying that Mr Kumbuor was a member of the government that oversaw the establishment of the Act.
Daniel Aidoo, Acting Procurement Manager at the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA), raised the issue of emergency procurement and suggested that the proposed amendment should capture that to give entities some legal backing in emergency cases.