Scrutiny pays off
Fifty of 65 government offices including the ministries of defence and interior affairs have not been given independent powers to process big contracts, and have to go through the National Procurement Commission.
A certificate of capacity from the commission is mandatory to be able to execute projects. The commission was created by a 2014 presidential decree to tackle corruption and ensure transparency, one of the first reforms of the national unity government.
The commission is headed by the president and the chief executive as well as the second vice president, while some cabinet ministers are members. Authorities say 2,000 of the 2,200 contracts submitted by different government offices to the commission were finalised. The commission's main focus is contracts for security forces and infrastructural projects.
Mohammad Sohail Kakar, a strategic advisor in the National Procurement Commission, says some proposals were returned. The reasons could be anything from incompletion of project documents to lack of legal standards and high prices of contracts.
Kakar says as a result of more rigorous scrutiny, the government has saved 18.3 billion Afs (2.7 million USD) while clearing contracts worth an estimated 292 billion Afs (4.3 billion USD).
For instance in the 204-million USD Dar Soof to Yakawalang road building project, the commission shaved off 50 million USD from the original cost. In the first round of bidding in 2012, the project cost was 254 million USD. Inflated government project costs running into millions of dollars were a major source of corruption under the previous government.
Kakar claims project costs have come down without compromising quality, and the process of procurement is more competitive with smaller companies able to participate even for security contracts that were earlier the monopoly of three large companies. According to him, in a recent tender for Ministry of Interior Affairs projects, 100 companies had sought terms and conditions, and half those were ready with the paper work when the bid was opened.
The National Procurement Commission reviews all projects over 100 million Afs (1.5 million USD) in construction, 40 million Afs (593,000 USD) in service delivery and less than 20 million Afs (296,000 USD) in manufacturing.
Only 15 ministries and government offices have permission to independently proceed with projects, including ministries of urban development, labour and social affairs, women's affairs, agriculture, irrigation and livestock, parliamentary affairs, education, counter narcotics, and public health.
According to authorities, these have the ability to process and advance big contracts with the commission just reviewing the procurement and monitoring the implementation. Neither the commission of national procurements nor the office of national procurements is involved.
In all other cases, the National Procurement Commission will assess the contracts for whether processes have been followed as per the law. Members of the commission are the final authority to decide if the project is to be approved, or needs further work or rejected.
Priority is given to projects from the Ministry of Public Works, which is listed in grade one of the budget; the defence ministry in grade 2; and, interior ministry in grade 3.
Ghulam Sakhi Ahmadzai, assistant of procurements in the Ministry of Defence, confirms that more than 70 percent of contracts are approved through the National Procurement Commission since a majority of contracts are high value. For instance, contracts for fuel, air transportation, food require permission from the commission.
Meanwhile, Yasin Samim, spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology told Killid the ministry has been trying to build capacity after losing the certificate of capacity from the National Procurement Commission for failing to keep to schedules.