Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA) has been partly blamed for a role in e-procurement irregularities that were largely noticed at the Parliament accounts committee (PAC) hearing.
PAC faulted some ministries, government business entities and most of the 30 districts for failure to follow legal tendering procedures, failure to make monthly reports, altering tendering guarantee fees and offering tenders out the e-procurement system which are all illegal unless consulted with the RPPA, and ministry of justice.
MP Christine Bakundufite showed that the new e-procurement system has gaps in data recovery (retrieving), no spread out backup and information.
“With no storage, no back up, that means that if anything happens the system stops and so does the work,” Bakundufite said.
She also showed that 13 tenders worth Rwf31billion were processed in the e-procurement system using a closed bidding window, meaning that other bidders were not able to access or knows anything about the tenders.
Though districts such as Nyamagabe and Nyabihu were accused for not revealing enterprises that failed to deliver so that they are blacklisted in the RPPA system, the authority was also equally blamed for having a system that delays to show the blacklisted companies.
“There are four companies that were blacklisted but the system didn’t show their status thus protecting them, meaning they equally bid for tenders. Why?” Bakundufite asked.
In explanations given, Hannington Namara, the RPPA board chairperson said that the system was new but it has been built to become stable to a level that there will be a better backup system.
RPPA Director General (DG), Joyeuse Uwigeneye also said that by the time of the Auditor General’s report, the system was under initial stages thus the gaps however they had started implementation in which they had a separate data recovery and backup system to ensure safety of data in case of damages.
We have already secured a data recovery and storage service which is at 90% and by the end of next month the whole system will be complete, after testing and trials.
On the bidding issue in the system, DG Uwigeneye said that the system was initially built to warn the bidders who have no legal requirements but they have since been able to upgrade it to a level that bidders who don’t qualify for tenders cannot proceed beyond the initial steps.
However, PAC chairman said that still this doesn’t explain why the entire data ecosystem in the system is not legally backed to an extent that it allows bidders which are not in line with intentions of the tenders.
Uwigeneye explained that in the e-procurement system has not been build up to exhaust all the controls as planned but also that this was limited by the changes in the procurement law (on bidding thresholds) at the time.
At the time of the audit we were found in the process of doing so but had not done so because we were required to include the thresholds as required by the ministerial order of which we got consults to do it for us,” Uwigeneye explained saying that system building takes time.
However MP Bakundufite questioned why the RPPA says that the system is new yet it still has many loopholes in it to the extent that bidders illegally won tenders worth Rwf31billions.
This system begun working in 2016-2017 and I personally don’t see why you say that it is new. It is even possible that similar or worse errors have been committed before those seen by the auditor general,” Bakundufite said.
On top of this MP Muhakwa also questioned why the so called new system was built without following the changes in the law to an extent that this at a larger extent could have caused more damage to other denied bidders.
Uwigeneye said that they don’t undermine the issue but the system has a warning system to bidders, however MP Bakundufite showed that the same system didn’t have a proper warning system which is the reason unqualified bidders when ahead to apply and win the Rwf31billion worth tenders in question.
Uwigeneye said that the system was not built to immediately block bidders who don’t fulfill the bidding threshold but with advise of the OAG that have invested in this area to clear this glitch.
Parliament also pinned RPPA for having a system that allows tenders to be rolled outside the e-procurement system, which in itself breaks the objective of electronic bidding to avoid corruption cases in tendering procedures.
The CEO of Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), Innocent Bagamba Muhizi said that initially the blacklisting module was not thought of when the system was being built but added later on as an issue of concern.
Though Rwanda is ranked top in implementing procurement procedures the RPPA e-procurement system will have to work on the lacking engagement model as East African Community (EAC) moves to harmonize e-procurement policy and practices.