A Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr Sagre Bambangi, has defended his outfit’s decision to sole-source a contract worth GHc 9 million for the purchase of chemicals to fight armyworms without full approval from the Public Procurement Authority.
The contracts were eventually approved retroactively by the Authority.
He said the threat of the armyworms required that the Ministry had to act with urgency, which explains why they had to bypass the Procurement Authority processes.
“We were under an emergency situation so everybody was running helter-skelter to ensure that we were not threatened by the fall armyworms the way it was going. So that is why the ministry engaged all the chemical sellers,” he stated on Eyewitness News.
Dr Bambangi reiterated the defence he made in Parliament when the Ashaiman Member of Parliament, Ernest Norgbey, questioned the legality of the retrospective approval.
“We have a legal adviser in the ministry, and if it is not founded in law, he wouldn’t have advised the ministry to go that way… we applied to the Public Procurement Authority and if it was not founded in law, they wouldn’t have approved it.”
Sole-sourcing has been noted as a conduit for corruption, which the governing New Patriotic Party has criticized vehemently in the past, and even put in place a Minister of Procurement for the first time.
Dr. Bambangi however assured that there was nothing shady underneath the deal for the chemicals.
He noted that “everybody agreed it [the armyworms] was a threat to food security if we didn’t control it well… It is not as if we purchased from one chemical dealer. We purchased from 12 chemical dealers.”
In all, 12 companies were assembled by the government to supply the insecticides to fight the armyworms, but without a competitive bidding process.
Legality or retrospective approval
A lecturer at the University of Education, B.B. Bingab, indicated that there was no aspect of the law that allowed for retrospective approval.
The closest aspect of the law, which Dr. Bambangi alluded to in his defence, is section 40(1) (c) of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).
It states that “a procurement entity may engage in single source procurement under section 41 with the approval of the board… where owing to a catastrophic event, there is an urgent need for the goods, works or technical services, making it impractical to use any other methods of procurement because of the time involved in using those methods.”
Dr. Bingab admitted the lack of any lawful avenue for retrospective action, but noted that “there are certain instances where a decision has to be made bearing in mind the repercussions of not taking that decision.”
In this instance, where a state of emergency was called over the impact and threat of armyworms, the lecturer noted that retrospective approval may have been justified.
“In the event that if you don’t take that decision [immediately], it makes no meaning to eventually get the approval you need, then you have got to act… to wait till the final decision will suggest that even the request you are making will be in vain.”