Private Sector Raises Concerns over New Market Price Reference Catalogue

By Phiwa Sikhondze

The private sector has expressed concern over the recently launched Market Price Reference Catalogue for Common Use Items.

Local businesspeople made their feelings known during a workshop held by the Eswatini Public Procurement Regulatory Agency (ESPPRA) at the Sibane Sami Hotel yesterday. The event was meant to capacitate the private sector on the Market Price Reference Catalogue.

The Catalogue aims to standardize prices for goods and services procured by the government, to the private sector and also serves as a comprehensive guide to indicative prices for frequently purchased goods and services by the government.

ESPPRA CEO, Vusumutiwendvodza Matsebula, highlighted the benefits of the catalogue, including fostering fair competition among suppliers, ensuring transparency and value for money in public procurement, and mitigating the risk of overpricing and corruption.

The workshop provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss concerns and provide feedback on the catalogue. The CEO emphasized the importance of private sector participation and the mandate of the agency to eliminate discrimination and ensure performance clarity, in line with the 2011 Act that encourages private sector participation and aims to eliminate discrimination in procurement.

ESPPRA has the authority to collect data and access information, empowering it to regulate pricing and monitor market trends in the kingdom. The catalogue is expected to improve the efficiency of the public procurement system in Eswatini.

The Catalogue covers a wide range of items including stationery, furniture, IT equipment, and cleaning materials, and is expected to foster fair competition, transparency, and value for money in public procurement.

During the question-and-answer session, stakeholders pointed out several ideas and concerns about the implementation of the catalogue and general logistics of the tendering process.

The Federation of Eswatini Business Community’s Hhohho Chairperson Johannes Manikela raised concerns about the pricing of government tender documents.

The CEO clarified that ESPPRA is responsible for regulating tender prices only for contracts issued through the independent agency.

On another note, businesswoman Zinhle Matsebula expressed extreme concern over the expectations of the new Market Price Reference Catalogue. With the support of many other suppliers, she highlighted that it is unfair for the government to dictate how they should price their supplies yet the government is not prepared to work on speeding up their payment process, paying suppliers on time.

She said that in as much as the system is here to save the government from being overcharged, it still drags their businesses down as the government takes too long to pay suppliers.

The workshop marks a significant step in the government’s efforts to empower the private sector and enhance transparency and accountability in public procurement. The Market Price Reference Catalogue will be a valuable tool for both suppliers and government agencies, promoting fair competition and ensuring value for taxpayers’ money.

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