The public procurement system in Malawi is regulated by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act (2017) and other secondary legislation. Prior to 2003, Malawi had a centralized procurement system characterized by the presence of the Central Tender Board (CTB) that was responsible for all procurement above a prescribed threshold for Government Ministries and Departments. The Central Government Stores (CGS) used to procure for Government Ministries and did its own procurement without much control from the Government.
This was one of the gaps that led to the enactment of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) of 2003, which decentralized procurement responsibility to procuring entities and established the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) as a public office with the responsibility of regulation, monitoring and oversight of public procurement in Malawi.
However, lack of limited enforcement mechanisms led to the enactment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act (2017) which established the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) as an impartial and independent institution responsible for the regulation, monitoring, oversight and enforcement of public procurement and disposal of assets in Malawi.
The PPDA is now transitioning from being a government department to a fully-fledged Authority. The PPDA operates independently, i.e. Director General is appointed through competitive means and not appointed by the President like in other oversight bodies. This provides opportunity for greater independence of the procurement authority. The PPDA is equipped with relatively wide authority, which includes investigation and sanctioning of procuring entities, and granting permission to use the direct procurement procedure.
The fact that the PPDA enjoys high degree of independence and is equipped with wide authority is in line with best international standards of having an independent public procurement authority that has enough resources and legal authority to impartially monitor the system and make sure the PPL is being followed in practice. In this way, the PPDA has good potential that needs to be further harnessed by establishing clearer legal functions, ensuring that there is no duplication of authority, and equipping the Authority with more resources to carry out its responsibilities.
However, the PPDA is unable to fulfill one of its main functions – collection of procurement information from procuring entities, who, despite being obligated by law to keep records of all procurement activities and send them to the PPDA, often fail to do so. This problem also negatively affects the PP information platform run by the PPDA, which is able to offer only minimal information about ongoing procurement opportunities in the country. This observation is in line with experience from other countries where procuring entities fail to consistently comply with such legal obligations. The only cases where this problem is not serious enough to be a cause for concern are centralized, electronic PP systems where procurement related information is automatically generated and stored as procurement procedures are conducted. For example, Georgia and Ukraine both have centralized e-procurement portals, and have negligible problems with the completeness of uploaded information.
Therefore, even though the Malawian public procurement system is currently paper-based, relevant stakeholders should consider the option of transitioning to a centralized open e-procurement system, which would be run by the PPDA and enable it to fulfill its functions with much greater efficiency.
Public Procurement Legislation available at – link.
Public Procurement Information Portal of Malawi – link.