Original publish date – Tue, 17 Jan 2012 13:09:20 +0000, Keith
We were very pleased when the finance minister gazetted the changes to the PPPFA regulations. It brought the PPPFA in line with the B-BBEE act and codes. It made for consistency and ensured fairness and objectivity in adjudicating and awarding tenders.
It was a shock therefore to see that the finance minister has issued an exemption to all public/state owned enterprises for the new regulations. SOEs no longer need follow the new regulations and have pretty much carte blanche on how they will issue/ advertise and ultimately award tenders. The exemption is for a period of 12 months to 7th December 2012. The PPPFA does allow the minister to issue those exemptions notices, but we feel that this has set back the entire B-BBEE process, almost irretrievably.
Who is affected? All entities in schedules 2 and 3(b), (d) of the Public Finance Management Act. This includes ACSA, Telkom, Transnet, SAA, Eskom, Rand Water, Umgeni Water. It refers to a huge proportion of government expenditure.
What is left are only government and provincial departments and smaller organisations like Boxing SA that need to follow the new regulations.
We see this as a huge blow for true empowerment. The only measure of empowerment is your B-BBEE certificate, and yet, the largest SOEs are refusing to implement the new regulations in favour of a different, inconsistent system.
The SOEs do have reasons for wanting to be exempt – ranging from difficulty in implementing the new policies to their feeling that B-BBEE is “too soft”. The Black Business Council feels that the new regulations threaten black business because many white owned businesses have a better B-BBEE level, or can win business by giving a discount of more than 10%. They are asking that certain spend be set aside for specifically black business.
This is inconsistent with the B-BBEE scorecard. If there was a problem with the B-BBEE scorecard being “too soft”, then the route to go should be to change the B-BBEE codes and strengthen the fight against fronting rather than throwing out B-BBEE in favour of the old PPPFA regulations.
We do recognise that some SOEs, e.g ESKOM demand that their suppliers have a valid BEE certificate, level 4 or above, so they are not dismantling B-BBEE totally.
The new regulations have been discussed for 3 years, and were gazetted in June 2011, so there was sufficient time for discussion before it was implemented, rather than the minister have to issue his exemption on the date that the new regulations came into effect. It really makes us wonder why the minister bothered to implement any regulations at all if he is going to exempt probably more than 50% of all state procurement from the regulations.
This is not going to improve peoples’ attitudes around tendering and B-BBEE – rather is will harm them and result in lower compliance. At the moment the dti is trying to get its new B-BBEE Amendment Bill accepted by parliament. This is also a set back for the chances of that bill being approved. We, ourselves have spent nearly two weeks writing up our submission on that bill, giving it our qualified support, and making what we consider are positive suggestions. Based on the failure of the PPPFA, our feeling right now is that the Amendment Bill will never be gazetted or implemented, so why bother wasting time on a submission. If that is our feeling, as the biggest supporters of empowerment and B-BBEE, I’d hate to hear what others are saying.