Memorandum on national interest
President, as Minister of Finance and Planning, has forwarded a
Cabinet Memorandum for securing national interest in
recommending ‘Tender Awards’.
Needless to say, that protecting and securing national interest
is the sole and only responsibility of an elected government,
this Cabinet Memorandum could be deemed to be redundant, in
that, no government is expected to do anything against the
Though a mere perusal of the Cabinet Memorandum reveals laudable
objectives of protecting and securing national interest, a
careful reading of it raises serious issues and contradictions.
For instance, it is stated that the National Procurement Agency
(NPA) has set out guidelines to make the procurement process
transparent and to obtain the best and the most advantageous
procurement for the country. One would believe, no doubt, in the
Contradicting such position, the NPA has been suddenly given
‘marching orders’ by the Presidential Secretariat to windup from
end February 2008, without any reasons publicly made known, in
the national interest !
Reliable sources state that the functions of the NPA, after
this, are to be carried out by the Department of Public Finance,
which comes under the Treasury. Therefore, there would not be
any independent supervisory check and balance of public
procurements, primarily paid for by the Ministry of Finance, and
agreements on behalf of the government, also entered into by the
Ministry of Finance.
The Cabinet Memorandum also states that the procurement process
causes long delays, causing considerable additional costs, and
in contradiction therewith, states that the related agreements
should be carefully scrutinized. One gets the ‘feeling’ that
speedy procurements must be facilitated, whereby even ‘dead duck
deals’ could be dumped on the nation, by trying to ‘short
circuit’, the procurement process.
National Interest, no doubt, must be protected at all costs. But
what is defined, as national interest, is unknown, particularly,
in relation to a procurement or a deal with the government. Does
the Cabinet Memorandum imply that the procurement process
hitherto have all been against the national interest? If not,
then why the Cabinet Memorandum, and how does one justify same?
Before any such procurement or deal, ought not the criteria or
factors of national interest be pre-defined and made public, to
ensure a ‘level playing field’?
Finally, there must be public justification and accountability
for any change or deviation from the tried and tested process
for procurements or government deals, to prevent questionable
and unjustified ‘intermeddling’ at the final goal post.
Otherwise, the proposed Cabinet Memorandum would leave room for
‘wheeling and dealing’, and erode international confidence in