His comments came after Permanent Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) Steven Maesiola get caught up in the COVID-19 emergency to complete important COVID-19 infrastructure before the first repatriation of our locals.
MID was trying to complete the quarantine stations, isolation centres and other infrastructures done quickly but Wale queried the PS about the efficiency of the procurement.
“The permanent secretary you have previously mentioned that getting the quarantine stations, isolation centres and other infrastructures done quickly.
“And in an emergency that’s what we want,” Wale said
Wale reiterated the statement by Accounting General who also appeared before BLC.
“Accounting General who also appeared before BLC agreed that yes in an emergency things must be done quickly but disasters and emergencies do not become an excuse for corruption,” Wale said.
He further stated that after the work they look back by his estimates there are people who are bent on exploiting emergencies or disasters in corrupt practices.
“The number of payments that were raised each month when compliance identified it as possibly corrupt or out rightly corrupt is very high.
“So where do we strike the balance in terms of efficiency of the procurement so that things get time in the timely manner, the response is effective and delivered in time.
“And importantly making sure the government is not being defrauded by absorbing excessive pricing or by sub-standard quality work,” Wale queried.
It was also understood that the latest revelation by one of the former MID officers in the print media which also related to procurement is just too much.
“And for sure we heard of these same issues in the media very often and I remember I did ask you in the Public Accounts Committee recently,” Wale told Maesiola.
He added that everyone cannot deny this but how to stamp these corrupt activities is not easy because gets done in cash
Wale said they hope that individual will take full advantage of the Whistle Blowers Act to report it the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and maybe name some names in the ministry of Central Tender Board.
“At least we start to clean this whole scheme up but it brings to light this whole issue we do want things done efficiently, in time but not at the expense of corruption that is too high a price to pay,” Wale expressed.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary Jimmy Nuake in response said it’s quiet an important issue to look at.
In his experience Nuake said what they currently have so far is a waiver form which if there’s an emergency they have to tick what type of emergency, is it war or disaster or whatever.
So in terms of procurement during emergency Nuake said MID have the list of registered contractors so they can quickly call them to give them the price and they can go out and do the work.
“There will be no tendering process because of the waiver applied to the legitimate contractors who MID request for the job,” Nuake explained.
COVID-19 outbreak has created up till now unseen challenges in procurement systems and in the delivery of public services, in particular public infrastructure.
Impacts on procurement systems and public infrastructure do not only affect governments, but also suppliers competing for or being awarded public contracts and citizens benefitting from public services alike.
It was understand that the hearing into the Public Health and Emergency still continue with few more witnesses to appear before BLC today.
By ANDREW FANASIA