Dar es Salaam. Members from Tanzania’s special groups – youth, women, the elderly, and persons with disabilities – gathered here on Saturday to reflect on the implementation of the country’s Public Procurement Act, 2011, with the view of improving its scheme aimed at empowering the groups economically.
The groups were brought together by The Chanzo, Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA) and Mwanamke na Uongozi under the campaign dubbed Hatua 30, which means 30 Steps, in English.
The groups discussed how they could benefit more from the legal requirement that public institutions set aside at least 30 per cent of their procurement budgets to buy goods and services from companies owned by the youth, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Tony Alfred, The Chanzo’s Managing Editor, said during the workshop at the Rungwe Hotel in Sinza that several factors prevent the groups from benefiting from the scheme to the fullest.
“Many members of these groups are not aware of the opportunities available in the public procurement system,” Mr Alfred said while officiating the one-day workshop.
“To benefit, they must demand government institutions play by the rules,” Mr Alfred added. “Therefore, public institutions must set aside this statutory percentage to buy goods and services from these groups.”
Tanzania moved to amend its public procurement laws as part of deliberate national efforts to ensure these groups participate in providing goods and services to the government as one of the ways to empower themselves economically.
The amendment to the law meant that if a procuring entity plans to procure goods and services worth Sh1 billion, businesses run by women, youth and persons with disability should supply at least Sh300 million of goods and services needed.
However, a recent regional study shows the scheme, introduced seven years ago, has yet to be implemented successfully, raising questions about the success of its intended objectives.
Commissioned by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a continental organisation working around transparency and accountability issues in Africa, the study outlines several reasons for arriving at such a conclusion.
The study, which The Chanzo was part of conducting, reveals that between 2016 when the scheme was introduced, and 2021, only 144 registered groups benefited from it, with contracts worth only Sh648.19 million issued.
The study also compares Tanzania’s 30 per cent scheme with its Kenyan equivalent, Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), introduced in 2013 and become operational in 2015.
AFIC found that by 2019, 40,597 groups had been registered under the AGPO scheme, which set aside US$1.7 billion. In addition, a total of US$911 million was awarded to particular groups, which include women, youth, and persons with disabilities.
The Chanzo is partnering with TYVA and Mwanamke na Uongozi, both Dar es Salaam-based non-governmental organisations that respectively work on youth and women issues, to try to change the status quo.
Saturday’s workshop is one in a series of activities that the three organisations have jointly undertaken to accomplish that goal, which includes engaging officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to share study findings and beneficiaries’ experiences with them.
Gwakisa Bapala, a senior officer at the National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC), said during the workshop that it is in the nation’s best interests that public institutions follow the law in their procurements.
“Among the stakeholders that participated in coming up with this arrangement is the NEEC,” Mr Bapala, whose organisation is charged with coordinating, facilitating and monitoring economic empowerment initiatives in Tanzania, told participants.
“We were very categorical in our calls that without preferential treatments, companies owned and operated by youth, women, the elderly, and persons without ability will never be able to benefit from government-announced tenders,” he added.
Apart from associating special groups’ inability to benefit effectively from the scheme with the issue of access to information, TYVA Executive Director Yusuph Bwango also criticised conditions laid down by the law as a factor for unsatisfactory results from the scheme.
“The law requires women, youth, and persons with disabilities to access opportunities offered by the scheme only as groups,” Bwango pointed out. “This requirement should be removed to allow other forms of businesses such as sole proprietorship, limited companies, and the group to participate.”
Mr Alfred noted that if effectively implemented, the scheme has the potential to be a game-changer for economic empowerment in Tanzania, urging members from the special groups to go out for the opportunity and public institutions to implement the law’s requirements.
According to him, through its institutions, the government spends over Sh25 trillion annually to buy goods and services, pointing out that 30 per cent of this money is significant enough to help small and medium enterprises in Tanzania grow.
“It is a huge opportunity for Tanzania’s entrepreneurs,” Mr Alfred said. “The government just needs to ensure that its institutions set aside this 30 per cent in their procurement budgets to buy goods and services from companies owned by youth, women, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.”