‘Firms in business with state must be made public’

Lobby group Equal Education (EE) has urged legislators to ensure that the recently proposed Public Procurement Bill obliges the government to make public the list of companies contracted to build schools and related infrastructure.

EE head of research Elizabeth Biney said the bill in its current form fails to compel government departments and entities to make information on procurement proceedings publicly available, especially about construction projects.

The bill, introduced in parliament on June 30, seeks to establish a unified framework for regulating procurement by all governmental organisations.

If it becomes law, it will significantly alter how the tendering process operates.

“Access to regularly updated information on project progress is equally important, and institutions should be obliged to make regularly updated information publicly available,” said Biney.

“In the case of school infrastructure, the Education Facilities Management System will soon be used by all provincial education departments and contains critical information on school infrastructure delivery, which should be made publicly available,” she said.

“EE and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) recommend that Section 5 be amended to oblige institutions to publish regularly updated information on their procurement proceedings and project implementation and to ensure that this is made publicly available.”

In 2013, EE, with the support of its legal division, the EELC, successfully campaigned for the promulgation of the Regulations Relating to Minimum Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure. These norms provide clear deadlines by which certain minimum infrastructure standards and basic services, such as adequate toilets, classrooms, water and electricity, must be provided to all public schools.

A few weeks ago, the National Association of School Governing Bodies criticised the Gauteng department of education and other parties for failing to speed up school infrastructure improvement projects.

The association expressed concern after learning the Gauteng province had failed to complete 20 school infrastructure development projects on time.

Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesperson Mathew Parks said the federation campaigned for years for the bill to reach parliament.

“This is a long-overdue progressive bill.”

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