Malish Joseph is an entrepreneur and Managing Director of Five Investments Limited. Brisker Magazine recently caught up with him for a one-on-one interview concerning the South Sudan Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill. Below, we produce you the excerpts of the interview.
Brisker Magazine: Tell us about yourself.
Malish Martin: My name is Malish Martin Joseph. I am a South Sudanese, an entrepreneur and I work for Five Investment Limited, a South Sudanese company as its Managing Director.
Brisker Magazine: What is your relationship with the Association of South Sudan Contractors (ASSOC)?
Malish Martin: I am one of the founding members of the Association of South Sudan Contractors and serve at the advisory board as an adviser.
Brisker Magazine: What is the Association all about?
Malish Martin: The Association of South Sudan Contractors (ASSOC) is an association that seeks to bring South Sudanese contractors under one umbrella so that they can learn from one another and support each other in the business of the contracting industry.
We have at least 50 members who sign-up but we are looking forward to launch it. At the moment we are doing it one on one. We want to make sure that South Sudanese understand the importance of an institution like the ASSOC because the association will advocate for their common interest. An individual contractor cannot be heard but an association can be heard because it is a legal entity that represents the interest of many. The association can articulate for whatsoever the contractors are seeking for. The association can also help them to lobby.
Brisker Magazine: When was the association formed?
Malish Martin: The association was formed way back in 2013, but it was dormant because of the crisis that erupted in the same year. So we had to re-register it in 2016. As I speak now the association has its own constitution and actively running. It has an Executive Body, and I’m in the advisory body.
Brisker Magazine: What are some of the ASSOC greatest achievements?
Malish Martin: One of the achievements is the participation in the review of the Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill. The association had significantly positive influence in the final copy of the bill. We have been consulted and we gave our inputs. Together with the civil society, other bodies, we had to challenge the bill during its third reading in the Parliament calling for it to be reviewed because it was flawed in significant manner. The Clerk of Parliament accepted our proposal to allow for review to capture in some of our concerns to the extent that we can confidently own the bill as our own. I believe the bill will best serve the interest of the Republic of South Sudan.
Brisker Magazine: Talking about the procurement bill, would you like to elaborate on it?
Malish Martin: The Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill is a very important bill. It is actually the one that empowers our economy. This bill was long overdue; it was tabled way back in 2015 and it did not see the light of the day since then maybe because of competing priorities. With this bill, we are able to track crimes. It will guide the procurement of goods, services, and works in this country. The corruption that you hear about would be minimized to a greater extent because this bill has guidelines. It has limits that do not allow individuals and institutions to handle procurement in disregard of its provisions. The bill will create bodies that will monitor its implementation by an Act of Parliament. It has provisions for punitive measures. The bill will provide for regulations that will be issued by the Ministry of Finance to operationalize it from time to time.
To us in the private sector, it is this bill that really defines where each of the players – both foreigners and nationals – belongs. It makes the business environment well strategized and well defined for domestic companies as well as the foreign ones. Business will not be as usual from the signing of this bill into law by the President of the Republic of South Sudan.
Brisker Magazine: Why did the bill take long to be passed by the Parliament?
Malish Martin: The bill took long; first, it’s very consultative. It’s not a one person’s show. It involved a lot of other stakeholders, the civil society, private sector, and the wider business community who are directly affected by this bill.
Second, the bill was not written in isolation. It was to be aligned with international standards of procurement. A bill as such is a document that regulates procurements not only of local but also international procurements alike. A lot of consultation involving the World Bank has to be made to ensure that it is compliant with best practices regionally and internationally.
Third, the bill required reading through in the Parliament because the parliamentarians need to understand what it entails. The bill was drafted by few experts, but the rest of the people must be able to justify that whatever is written inside it is worthwhile.
So, it was passed by Parliament on 24th September 2018 and now awaits the signature of the President to assent it into a law. Delays are bound to happen because of the following reasons: (1) If the bill is not submitted in the right procedure, it may delay to reach the president for signing, (2) Other bodies like the Council of States may want to have an input; they need to look at the bill to ascertain their interest at States. So all these procedures take time. And this partially explains the current delays.
Brisker Magazine: How will this bill encourage domestic companies and industries?
Malish Martin: This bill will encourage so many domestic companies because the bill designated some procurement of goods, services and works to only South Sudanese companies if the funding for such is exclusively from the government of the Republic of South Sudan. Secondly, the bill has provided for preference margin on national companies when they compete with foreign companies. Therefore, this bill empowers national companies so much so that they have a lot of works, goods and services to render to the government and people of South Sudan, hence, creating employment opportunities for the citizens to the extent that they will have no time to chase (look for) government jobs.
The reason why South Sudanese are congested and are chasing government jobs is because the private sector is currently dominated by foreigners and the South Sudanese people are focusing on government positions and jobs. But with the enactment of the bill, there will be protection of national companies and businesses.
The bill has given enough space for South Sudanese citizens and, therefore, I want to encourage all the people to take these opportunities and lead in the economic growth of our country.
Brisker Magazine: What do you think are the possible challenges that would come with the implementation of the bill?
Malish Martin: There are categories of challenges: first, creating awareness of the bill. The knowledge, the people, the stakeholders who are to be implementers of the bill, there is massive need for awareness.
The second challenge is interest/willingness. Because the bill will be requiring people to adhere to certain dignified ways of doing things, if people (officials in-charge/institutions) are not willing to follow the prescription of the bill in implementation; it will be very difficult to make this bill a reality.
Third, the judiciary. Because the bill gets its power from the law, if the law or the legal entities are not functional or set to prosecute those who will abuse the bill, then it will be very difficult to penalize those who will go contrary to the requirement. When people raise their complaints against the abuse of the bill and nothing is done, the bill will become a waste. And therefore, nobody will be willing to cooperate with the prescription, thus, the bill will not achieve its intended target and purpose of empowering the government and its citizens. Without the bill, it is difficult for the country to hold anybody accountable.
The bill is the best for this country. The only enemy of the bill maybe someone who is not from this country. The bill ensures that the resources are utilized by the government for the benefit of its citizens.
Brisker Magazine: What will happen to foreign companies operating in South Sudan once the bill comes into function?
Malish Martin: The bill is good for foreign as well as national companies because this bill streamlines even foreign companies. Our economy will not only be built by South Sudanese and their companies only, we need investors/foreign companies as well; they will have their space to play.
The bill specifies the areas where foreign and local companies will be playing. Then there is going to be a synergy where Partnership will be born. These are very healthy partnerships and they are internationally recognized. In every country around the world that’s the mode at which nations run affairs. We shouldn’t be any different. We cannot say we function at a different situation.
So in South Sudan when it comes to the Procurement and Disposal of Assets Bill, foreign companies also have a big role to play. There are certain things they first have to fulfil as well as local companies. Each one of us will be placed at where we belong and will be able to play our roles satisfactorily. So the bill is neither a threat to foreign companies nor to local companies. The bill is just good for everyone. It puts everything into perspective.
Brisker Magazine: In your own analysis, how do you see the future of domestic companies or industries in terms of growth and coping up with international standards?
Malish Martin: The future of these companies is bright. Many South Sudanese, because of the difficulty that the crisis had brought, learnt the art of contracting. Many South Sudanese are now into the business of running companies across the country. When you go to the streets, you find our women are selling, our gentlemen now valuing money.
ASSOC is going to train our brothers and sisters. All these companies, we are going to subject them to capacity building; they must be trained to understand payment of taxes and why you need to pay your taxes promptly, record keeping, how to apply for contracts/preparation of bid documents, renewal of documents and how to keep your business/companies up-to-date in current trend, understanding client requirements and adherence to contract terms.
Brisker Magazine: What are some of the challenges you face as Contractors?
Malish Martin: Financially, most of the national companies do not have access to loans to pre-finance contracts. Which bank do you think you can go to as a South Sudanese and get a loan? Right now we have no access to any loan. Most of the NGO’s and other institutions, they don’t give advances when they give you a contract/purchase order. You have to do the job first before they give their money. This is one of the biggest challenges to national companies. For this reason, we are seen as non-performers because they give us the job and we struggle to look for the money … and, they say” time up,” you have failed to deliver and you are incompetent! It’s not true; we have very competent South Sudanese individuals, trusted, able and qualified individuals who could deliver quality goods, services and works when aided with money.