Gauteng premier David Makhura says the open tender process that the province piloted in 2014 should not be seen as an impediment to black economic empowerment.

“One of the issues to come to the fore in the debate on the open tender process, is that public scrutiny and citizen involvement should not be at the expense of empowering those historically excluded from the mainstream economy,” said the premier.

He was speaking at the province’s first open tender seminar in Midrand on Tuesday. The event was organised to explain how Gauteng’s open tender system works.

The Gauteng government spends more than R20bn procuring goods and services for the province, of a total annual procurement budget of R500bn for SA.

However, many have complained that a few connected individuals get contracts and that the procurement process is riddled with corruption.

“Black people need to know that they must be empowered openly and ethically … not in secret. The idea that black businesses need secrecy and corruption to thrive is an insult to many hardworking and honest black entrepreneurs,” Makhura said.

The premier said a survey conducted by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory showed that 82% of participants saw corruption as a threat to SA’s democracy.

In his interactions with members of the public, Makhura found that most of them said they could not get a tender because they had not given a bribe for it or they did not know anyone to help them get it.

The premier said most businesspeople said they did not bother tendering for government business because of tender corruption.

“Transparency and accountability are important to save public officials from themselves, from capture by private or corporate interests,” said Makhura.

He suggested to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was at the seminar, that the government’s budget processes be even more transparent than they already were.

“I would say, minister, we must also open the budget processes … more, for public participation in the allocations and spending priorities of the government,” he said.

Makhura said it was important that members of the public knew exactly what the government’s money was being spent on so that they understand when the government said there was no budget for certain things.

Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy said there were 72 tenders currently going through the open tender process, which was adjudicated publicly.

Tenders worth more than R50m were subject to the open tender process at present, and the aim was for all tender processes to be open by the end of the current government’s term, she said.

- business live

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