Chamber of Commerce calls for stricter enforcement in public procurement

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The Malta Chamber of Commerce is calling for the government and financial entities to implement stricter enforcement with regards to public procurement in order to better regulate its processes, make them more transparent, and ensure that the law is abided by.

It did so through the launch of a document titled ‘The Public Procurement Reform Report’ which contains 36 recommendations on the entire procurement process and which was penned by a working group dedicated to this matter.

The group was made up of Liz Barbaro Sant, Anton Borg, Marcel K. Mifsud, Maronna Filletti, Mary Gaerty, Roderick Aquilina and Julia Aquilina, with Ganado Advocate Clement Mifsud Bonnici serving as the technical advisor on the process.

“The Malta Chamber has been and is vociferous in its call to represent ethical business across Malta and Gozo. Public procurement represents an important component of business opportunities for economic operators in Malta; it must be done properly and with respect to the law,” Chamber President David Xuereb said during the launch of the document on Wednesday.

He added that all economic operators must be on an equal playing field when tendering for government purchasing opportunities and such procurement exercises must be accessible to all eligible economic, free from impropriety and in compliance with the law.

One of the main recommendations that the Chamber is suggesting is the blacklisting of operators who are in breach of the law.

Mifsud Bonnici explained that any such operator need to be sanctioned and not allowed to participate in public procurement or allowed to enter public contracts, “otherwise the wrong message will be sent to the ethical market and honest operators; the message that everything goes.”

On the other hand, contracting authorities should reward economic operators that comply with the law, not only because this is the right thing to do, but because it is a cost for economic operators to comply with the law and the authorities need to understand the importance of an equal level playing field across economic operators. “This action will assure customers of the effective use of public funds.”

Another key recommendation regards the management and implementation of direct orders.

“The Malta Chamber does not disagree with the concept of directly awarded public contracts so long as their award is firstly, duly substantiated and justified in accordance with the law, adequately publicised and also subject to scrutiny by interested parties,” Mifsud Bonnici explained.

The Chamber is suggesting that awards are publicised through a contract register that will include all public contracts that contracting authorities receive.

The third most important recommendation then relates to the performance of public contracts. The Chamber is calling for the monitoring of such contracts to be made readily available to the private sector as well as other aspects of public procurement, “obviously, with due respect to trade secrets and sensitive commercial information.”

The Malta Chamber believes that in implementing the necessary recommendations, the government will improve the quality of the tendering process, ensure fairness across all economic operators and reassure the public of an equitable use of public funds.

The document has been submitted to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and also the Director of Contracts already, and the Chamber is currently meeting every contracting company in Malta to clarify their thoughts with them and give relevant support.

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