THE government must take urgent measures to simplify the tender process to boost the sagging economy, says the head of a training organisation.
Liza van Wyk, chief executive of AstroTech Training in Johannesburg, was responding to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's medium-term policy document that stated that lagging infrastructural development was partly to blame for poor economic projections.
The complexity of tenders is slowing infrastructural development and enabling corruption, Van Wyk says.
Gordhan disclosed that the country's budget deficit is expected to widen from 4.2% of the gross domestic product in 2011/12 to 4.8% in 2012/13.
Van Wyk says: "It is disappointing that Minister Gordhan did not look at what is delaying infrastructure aside from strikes.
"Very complex tender requirements have enabled touts and the corrupt to find pathways to riches, while many honest business people battle with the bureaucracy involved and cannot afford the lawyers and consultants often needed for an effective tender submission."
She says that one of the most successful new courses her organisation ran was one on how to issue and evaluate tenders.
"Our government has had some significant infrastructural projects over the years, and more are planned, but it is disappointing that the same few names repeatedly come up as awardees. Government needs to ensure that tenders are simplified and accessible to businesses at all levels of the economy."
Van Wyk adds: "Ignorance of the law and government regulations can make companies vulnerable to repeated tender rejection, or being listed as a restricted supplier by the National Treasury."
The government is also entitled to recover any costs relating to a tender found not to comply with its requirements, claim damages or take the matter forward for criminal prosecution.
"Many companies fear falling foul of the law and so don't take advantage of the benefits of tenders, and this limits the pool of applicants and price competition, as well as the excellence of services or products," Van Wyk says.
In terms of Treasury regulation 164.9.1 (c), an accounting officer or organ of state is required by Treasury to investigate alleged corruption in a tender process.
"This is not always open to public debate or appeal, and so the list itself may not be accurate. There needs to be far more transparency and simplicity around tenders to open up the system, encourage efficiencies, and the real competitive practices our economy needs to move forward.
"Companies also need to improve corporate governance and publicly reward ethical business practice among their employees and suppliers."