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KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Vincent Seretse

Workshop spells out evils of bid-rigging

A workshop organised by the Competition Authority (CA), this week cast some light into the dark realities of bid rigging in the country’s procurement system.

Held under the theme ‘Fighting bid rigging in public procurement’, the inaugural National Bid Rigging Workshop brought together procurement specialists and decision makers from the public service, parastatals, and local government authorities including landboards from across the country.

Bid rigging, in its simplest form, is an agreement between bidders (written or oral) that limits or reduces competition in a tender.

Participants believed the workshop was a necessity as it coincided with a year in which tender offerings are at their zenith due to BOT 50 celebrations, as well as a damning US Investment Climate Statement that explicitly says “[Botswana’s] private sector representatives now note rising corruption levels in government tender procurements.”

Speaking at the workshop, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry – Vincent Seretse said some enterprises which are desirous of making profit at all cost are determined to collude and rig bids.

“Empirical evidence has shown that bid-rigging can increase the costs of goods and services by up to 20% or more, and data has shown that the cost is around 35% to 55% for developing countries,” he observed.

Bid rigging is not a novelty in Botswana and a number of high profile cases involving the manipulation of tenders have been widely reported in recent times.

Ironically, keynote speaker at the workshop, Vincent Seretse, has had bid rigging allegations leveled at him during his tenure as CEO of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation.

Despite this, he also touched on the various sectors affected by bid rigging.

“The victims of bid-rigging are customers and in public procurement where the customer is the Government, the harm extends to the whole economy, as the high prices paid to unscrupulous bidders affect other developmental goals. The impact is particularly serious when it involves the provision of essential goods and services that affect the lives and well being of citizens.”

Transparency International (which measures corruption levels of countries) has also reported a steady decline in Botswana’s corruption ratings. On a scale of 1-100 (with 1 being absolutely corrupt and 100 being absolutely clean), Botswana received a rating of 63 in 2015.

This however, is less than the 64 achieved in 2013 and the 65 attained in 2012.

The figures would suggest an annual rise in corruption levels.

Other speakers at the event include representatives of the OECD (Organization of Economic Corporation and development), Competition Commission of South Africa and the Competition Authority of Botswana.