22 June, 2024

Another Case Confirming the Critical Imminent Need for a Holistic Reform in Public Procurement


Reports published by the NAO, decisions handed down by the appeals board and court judgements are repeatedly confirming that our public procurement system is not functioning transparently and equitably, resulting in abuse, amateurism and irresponsible handling of public funds.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has been insisting on this reform since 2021 in its “Report on Public Procurement Reform” mapping out a comprehensive reform with over 40 recommendations for better governance.

Despite the fact that, since then, The Malta Chamber has persistently followed this up with Government, including various entities and departments, the Opposition and MCESD nothing tangible has been done. The problems persist. Breaches and abuses continue to happen because there is limited transparency, weak internal controls, inadequate checks and balances, as well as conflicts of interests. The current legal remedies are, at times, ineffectual and limited, as to what can be challenged and by who. While Government acknowledges the pertinence of the issues raised and the importance of addressing them effectively, no urgency or speed in implementing the required actions is being registered.

Some recommendations include:

• Mandatory advanced publication of the procurement outlook for the following 6 months

• Preliminary market consultation processes

• Engagement of truly independent experts in the drafting of procurement documents

• Make better use of the BPQR and MEAT systems as against cheapest compliance so as to ensure that government gets the best ROI on its investment

• Better scrutiny of all direct orders prior to their issue

• Setting up a publicly accessible and easy to use Contracts Register which includes all contracts, including direct orders, and which clearly highlights the specific milestones and deliverables reached by the contractor, the payments made (when and how much), any disputes that may have been registered, as well as all modifications and variations with accompanying detailed justifications.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry appeals to Government and all relevant authorities to be truly sensitive to the extent to which the business community and the public in general has had enough of cowboys running roughshod over good governance and clean business, and expects the authorities to leave no stone unturned in convincing all those who are watching that this Government is really serious about its intentions to clean up and raise the bar.

All economic operators must be on the same level playing field when tendering for government purchasing opportunities and all procurement exercises must be accessible to all eligible economic operators, in the same way and free from impropriety.

Public procurement spending is tax payer money. Government has the duty and obligation to manage the spending of tax payer money correctly, ensuring value for money and avoiding extravagant spending which is of no beneficial value to the taxpayer. Public procurement has a direct impact on our quality of life – any well meaning politician would put the Public Procurement Reform as his/her prime focus.

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