LETTER: Procurement bill ‘too heavy on racialism by tons’
The Public Procurement Bill could be the most dangerous new law passed in 2023
The Public Procurement Bill could be the most dangerous new law passed in 2023, though not for the reasons given by Stellenbosch Law Professor Geo Quinot (“Procurement bill falls short as it sets up a ‘broad framework’ only”, February 26).
Quinot is reported as saying: “I don’t think that the draft [Procurement] bill is going to get us where we need to be’’. Quite right. But, contrary to the reason given — that the bill is ‘‘too light on using procurement as a policy tool for empowerment purposes’’ — the bill is too heavy on racialism by tons.
We live in interesting times. Since January it has become possible for any organ of state to procure goods or services on the basis of maximum value for money, without reference to race, or by using a point system to reward companies that meet “specific goals” like building schools or tarring roads in impoverished areas. The state has been all too slow to have done so — but the Procurement Bill will bring back black economic empowerment as a necessary consideration when it comes to pass.
Going back to BEE is inappropriate because of the rise of intra-racial inequality. For example, the latest Stats SA Marginalised Groups Indicator Report broke household income into five brackets, finding most white children are in the highest bracket and most children in the highest bracket, by almost double, are black.
On the other end of the income scale there are roughly as many black children in the bottom bracket (monthly household earnings of R1,860) as in the top one (R16,500 per household per month). There is a terrifying difference between those quintiles. That difference must not be whitewashed by silly racialism when the state is trying to boost charity, or when procurement officers are trying to maximise value for money so more is left over at the end of the day to go to social grants.
Quinot is quoted as saying he wants the bill to go further in ‘‘pushing value for money and the achievement of outcomes’’ where the latter appears to be, at least in part, the ‘‘empowerment purposes’’ mentioned earlier. But the Zondo Commission report makes it perfectly clear that ‘‘there is an inevitable tension when a single process is simultaneously to achieve different aspirational objectives’’.
Was the report talking specifically about the tension between racialism and maximum value for money? Yes. And it advised clearly that value for money must come first. The Procurement Bill does the opposite.
Institute of Race Relations
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