April 18, 2013
The size of the African surveillance market is expected to increase dramatically over the next five years, notably due to unrest affecting the continent.
As unrest and security threats continue to escalate, particularly in Northern Africa, it is reasonable to assume that there will be an increased demand for surveillance technology within the next six months, from various security forces across the region as new opportunities for companies providing surveillance solutions are being created, according to Vislink, a global company specialising in the design and manufacture of secure video communications systems.
Vislink, with offices in South Africa, the UK, USA, UAE, Australia and Singapore, said that the African military and surveillance sectors are still not mature in terms of the technology available to them and so considerable investment in this technology will be required.
“Vislink is ideally situated to capitalise upon this demand, providing the high-quality but affordable equipment necessary to deliver an all-encompassing security effort,” stated Ali Zarkesh, Business Development Director at Vislink.
Globally, the company is doing well in the surveillance and military markets – in 2011, Vislink’s activity in the military field represented 16% of the company’s total revenues and the global market for Vislink’s surveillance products currently sits at around £200 million. Vislink’s activity in the law enforcement sector, which represents 70% of total surveillance revenues, is specifically driven by the growing need for robust video surveillance.
At present, the biggest opportunities in the military and surveillance space are coming from the Middle East, Far East and Latin America, Zarkesh said. Growth in the Middle East is driven by the volatile geopolitical environment and subsequent rising trend in upgrading military communications systems and networks. Vislink is also seeing significant opportunities from coalition forces deployed around the world. These bodies require a reliable means of communication to connect foot patrols, airborne units and command centres.
North African countries, in particular, are currently investing in surveillance solutions in order to help return a level of stability to the region. The political and security situation that has escalated in the past two years has created several opportunities for Vislink in this sector.
“It is also important to consider that several other countries in this part of the world have a heavy military focus. Wide ranging budgets are allocated to the defence sector in order to secure the country’s borders and protect its inhabitants. As a result, Vislink’s main opportunities across developing regions stem from growing covert surveillance demands,” Zarkesh said.
However, the future is not all bright as there are big challenges as well as opportunities in the defence industry. For instance, the UK spends around £34 billion on defence each year, yet the armed forces have recently seen the biggest budget cuts to their sector since 1991. This presents a unique challenge in itself, with military personnel requiring the same high-quality surveillance solutions as before, but now without the premium price tag, Vislink pointed out.
Vislink specialises in the production of satellite, wireless, video and IP solutions and targets government, surveillance, broadcast and news markets. For instance it delivers news gathering tools for the media and surveillance options for the government and military.
The company recently launched its Mantis MSAT, which it claims is the world’s smallest and lightest satellite data terminal, weighing 12.5 kg (27.5 lb). “Following a successful launch, the product has been deployed by several military forces around the world,” Vislink said. The Mantis MSAT can deliver voice, video and data communications, including HD video. Initial military orders have been filled and Vislink’s MSAT terminals are currently undergoing field trials for battlefield, command centre and special operations implementations.
Apr 19, 2013 | Sapa-AP
A staff member in the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo used a UN vehicle without authorisation to transport sacks of a precious mineral into a neighbouring country. The UN mission in Liberia was unable to account for 70 vehicles.
Those were just three of the examples fraud, bribery, financial and procurement misconduct and incompetence cited in the annual report of the UN’s internal watchdog, which circulated Thursday.
Since the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq that blew up after the US-led invasion, the UN has sought to strengthen oversight of its peacekeeping, which is its largest operation, both in personnel and cost. The UN has more than 100 000 peacekeepers.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services completed 42 investigations of sexual exploitation, abuse involving minors or rape.
In the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, for example, OIOS said it received a report that one or more police officers had sexually exploited a 14-year-old boy. An investigation produced clear evidence, including a handwritten admission by the officer, who was dismissed and sentenced to one year of “rigorous imprisonment,” the report said.
While the officer was punished, OIOS expressed regret “that the sexual exploitation and abuse of the boy had likely occurred over a three-year period but had remained undetected until 2012.”
The report did not specify the outcome of all of the 42 sexual abuse cases.
“Sexual exploitation and abuse remains a significant area of concern, with the greatest number of such offences being committed by uniformed personnel,” there report said.
The office urged stepped up efforts to prevent sexual abuse, saying the continuing allegations “reflect a failure to create and sustain an environment that deters such behaviour.”
Several cases of sexual abuse were also reported in Congo.
Also in that African country, the OIOS said local authorities arrested a staff member transporting sacks of precious minerals on suspicion of mineral trafficking. He was convicted of rebellion, attempted fraud, illegal ownership and transport of minerals, and is currently in prison.
Elsewhere, OIOS said the UN mission in Afghanistan spent about $42 000 to airlift obsolete and damaged equipment from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to the capital Kabul from January 2010 to December 2011 when it could have been transported by road for about $1 400.
The UN mission in Iraq overpaid two contractors a total of $632 992, it said, and at the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, a staff member with expired procurement authority approved 87 purchase orders valued at $29.13 million.
In impoverished Liberia, which is emerging from a long civil war, OIOS said the UN peacekeeping mission was unable to account for 70 vehicles “owing to the lack of adequate and effective procedures to safeguard assets.”
It said 20 of 64 closed circuit televisions installed after the theft of four vehicles weren’t operational and data was only stored for a week. It said 12 of 21 heavy vehicles had been in the workshop for over a year, and two others for over three years, because of the lack of spare parts.
OIOS said only two of 25 “quick impact” projects supported by the Liberian mission and designed to provide jobs and spur the economy were completed in the three-month time frame. Thirteen took up to three years to finish, OIOS said.
The OIOS also criticised the UN peace building mission’s management in Sierra Leone, which is trying to rebuild after the end of a civil war in 2002.
The report said the chief procurement officer in Sierra Leone signed off on contracts of $814 834, $1 815 652 and $105 000, even though he only had authority to sign for $50 000. The report did not say what happened to the officer.
The OIOS also said the Sierra Leone mission awarded six contracts without competition to vendors that didn’t meet UN requirements.
When the UN wrapped up its mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, OIOS said $1.1 million worth of equipment and material that was supposed to be shipped to other missions was kept in the port at Douala, Cameroon from July 2011 until July 2012 by the freight contractor.
“As a result, assets depreciated and may have deteriorated in storage if conditions were not optimal,” it said.
When asked to think about foreign mining contracts in Africa, many people’s minds will jump to China, or perhaps one of the former colonial powers such as the UK or France. China’s construction and agricultural projects in particular are at the core of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, as are the Asian giant’s more than 1.3 billion consumers.
Some readers might be surprised therefore to learn that Canada – with a population less than one-tenth that of China’s and geographically about as far from Africa as one can get – has quietly grown to become one of the largest stakeholders in Africa’s mining sector – possibly the largest, depending on how you quantify it.
A grizzly competitor
“We certainly are one of the biggest players [in Africa] in several respects”, Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, told Think Africa Press. “It’s a largely undeveloped, unexplored continent, which makes it interesting….A new frontier. Our industry is often one of the first to go where no-one has gone before.”
Countries competing with Canada in African mining include the UK, France, Australia, China, and South Africa, but ranking their relative dominance is all but impossible; countries measure and declare assets and investments using different methodologies and with varying levels of transparency. However, documents provided by Natural Resources Canada seem to portray a relatively accurate picture of the country’s activities in Africa.
According to these documents, in 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – 155 Canadian companies were operating in 39 African countries. Their combined assets* totalled more than $30.8 billion, up from $26.5 billion in 2010.
Canadian firms were most active in East Africa, with $12.7 billion on the ground in 2011. West Africa came next with $9.9 billion invested, followed by Southern Africa ($4.9 billion), Central Africa ($3.4 billion), and North Africa ($36.7 million).
Ranked in descending order by value of assets, Canada’s most important mining partners in 2011 were: Zambia, Mauritania, South Africa, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, and Eritrea.
While Canada is a major force in African mining, current projects on the continent actually only comprise a minority of Canadian companies’ operations overseas. According to Natural Resources Canada, assets in Africa accounted for just 21.5% of Canadian mining companies’ cumulative assets abroad. The majority are in Latin America.
However, those numbers describe just the interests of companies headquartered in Canada. Expand the picture to take into account other country’s projects financed on Canada’s Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and the TSX Venture, and Canada’s role in mining around the world grows even more substantial.
According to a December 2012 report drafted by the TSX, during the first nine months of 2012, 89% of all global mining equity financings were done on the TSX and TSX Venture (up one point from 2011). The document states that only 7% of mining projects traded on the TSX are located in Africa, but that does not diminish the fact that a lot of money for mining sites in Africa is going through the exchange in Toronto.
“There are approximately 315-20 listed [mining] companies that are not African but are doing business in Africa”, says Bruce Shapiro, president of Mine Africa, a Canada-based business and marketing company. “Of those, over 50% are Canadian. So in terms of the companies that we would normally look at, we certainly dominate that market.”
Shapiro explains that what sets Canada apart is the level of access to finance available on the TSX, where there’s a tradition of an appetite for risk. “Capital, at the moment, is impossible to raise”, he remarks, in reference to struggling developed economies. “But if it wasn’t, it would be relatively easy in Canada, compared to some other markets.”
Shapiro notes that Canada has vast deposits of mineral wealth within its own borders, a long history mining those deposits, and is now taking this expertise to Africa. Looking to the future, he continues, prospectors tend to be moving either into less-explored low-risk areas with stable governments or high-risk regions that tempt miners with the potential of very high rewards.
But in addition to a favourable private sector, mining companies are also attracted to Canada for a less-flattering reason, suggests Jamie Kneen, a coordinator for advocacy group MiningWatch Canada.
“There are hardly any Canadian laws of international application”, he says. “If something goes wrong, people may be able to sue in Canada, but that’s not entirely clear – it hasn’t worked yet.”
Kneen explains that while countries such as the US have passed domestic laws that govern corporations’ activities abroad, Canada has not done the same. The current Conservative government has actually voted down several attempts to increase accountability abroad.
One of those attempts to regulate the mining sector overseas was initiated by Member of Parliament John McKay. In April 2009, he proposed a bill that aimed to increase corporate accountability in developing countries, but to no avail.
“It died a glorious death”, McKay recalls on the phone from the Canadian capital of Ottawa. “They [mining lobbyists] don’t play to lose.”
He notes that without such legislation, international corporations based in Canada are left to self-regulate their conduct and adhere to the domestic laws of the countries in which they operate as they see fit.
“We have no ability to tell any mining company what to do, when to do, where to do, or how to do it”, McKay emphasises. In much of Africa, that creates potential for abuse. “Canadian companies are venturing into areas they’ve never ventured before”, he says. “There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation to go into conflict zones and areas where you know darn well you’re going to have some difficulties of some kind.”
Indeed, as Pierre Gratton from The Mining Association of Canada notes, Africa’s mining sector is expected to continue to expand, and Canadian interests on the continent to grow with it.
“There’s a recognition that this is something that we do well here, that we’re good at mining”, he says. “It’s one of the exceptions to the Canadian economy – we tend not to necessarily dominate sectors, but in mining, we do.”
*Natural Resources Canada defines mining companies’ cumulative “assets” as “calculated at acquisition, construction or fabricating costs, and includes capitalized exploration and development costs, non-controlling interest, and excludes liquid assets, cumulative depreciation [sic], and write-off.”
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By: Natalie Greve
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has said that all the major South African civil engineering and construction companies currently active in the sector have been involved in infrastructure-related collusion and price-fixing.
“This problem is huge and pervasive in the infrastructure space,” he said at the inaugural Project and Construction Management Professions Conference on Thursday.
The State reportedly lost billions of rands through large-scale collusion and price-fixing by private sector companies during several past infrastructure projects, which instigated investigations by the Competition Commission into several completed public build projects.
These enquiries, which included investigations into the Gautrain project and several stadium developments, uncovered substantial evidence of collusion and price fixing by private sector participants, the Minister noted.
In cases involving critical projects, a number of companies came forward to acknowledge their involvement in the unlawful practises, Patel added.
“We have received about 400 admissions of incidents of collusion by companies in the sector,” he commented.
South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) president Professor Raymond Nkado said he was “shocked” that registered members of the SACPCMP had been found to have been involved.
“As a council, we have decided that we might take additional disciplinary action against these [companies],” he said.
Based on the evidence gleaned from the commission’s investigations, which indicated the pervasiveness of the involvement by private companies, it was decided to introduce a “fast-track settlement process”, which would avoid lengthy legal processes that could persist for up to eight years, and which Patel said could potentially distract the project management process.
“We approached the industry and said we were prepared to put a voluntary disclosure process on the table, which would bring this to a conclusion expeditiously. In return, what is required is full disclosure, a commitment to end the cartels and an acceptance that the law must take its course,” he explained.
Once the disclosure process had been completed and admission of guilt received, the commission would then determine appropriate fines or penalties related to the value of the project.
Several such processes between the Competition Commission and private companies were currently under way, with most in the final stages, where the extent of the penalty was being determined in cases where organisations were “improperly enriched”.
Patel added that the first company to come forward and admit collusion would receive preferential treatment in terms of the penalty levied.
“We also take into account the extent of cooperation, so that there is an incentive to come clean. However, these companies will still have to pay substantial penalties as prescribed by the Competition Act,” he cautioned.
In cases where investigations implicated public servants, this information would be referred to law enforcement agencies.
There would be public disclosure once settlements had been reached.
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi added that the findings of the investigation challenged the common perception that corruption and malgovernance was only pervasive in the public sector.
“The opinion that only government has such problems has been proved incorrect. There are huge problems in the private sector and we must expose them,” he said, encouraging the private sector to engage in “self reflection”.
Nxesi noted that key to the prevention of corruption in infrastructure projects was the establishment of a strong financial system, transparent procurement processes and incentivisation.
Moreover, Patel advised that the competition authorities had used the findings of the investigations to identify networks and channels used by companies in collusive practises and had identified the lead players and managers.
This would be used to develop internal preventive controls to reduce the opportunity for future collusion.
In addition, Patel said the CEO of any company awarded an infrastructure tender would be required to sign an “integrity pact” that committed them to competitive and noncorrupt practises and to create a culture in their organisation in which anticompetitive behaviour was discouraged.
“This will require executives to commit personal responsibility and liability,” he said.
The integrity pact was currently being piloted in a number of infrastructure tenders and would be fully implemented throughout the course of this year.
Patel said it was critical that the new phase of national infrastructure development not be characterised by similar high levels of collusion and price-fixing.
“Companies will have to make an important calculation. In the past, they thought collusion was a no-brainer; that they would secure the contract and walk away with the money. Now they see that we have developed the investigatory capacity to track the evidence down and to bring companies to book. That is the most important breakthough for us,” he said.
April 11, 2013
THE Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) has advised state governors to set up a public procurement system as a way of ensuring further transparency and accountability in government.
Director-General of the BPP, Mr Emeka Ezeh made this call while speaking at a high level interactive session with a delegation of the Lagos State public procurement agency at the state house office in Abuja.
Mr Ezeh praised Lagos State for their procurement reform initiative, adding, however, that the nation would benefit as a whole if more states joined Lagos, even as few other states that have already introduced the reform.
The BPP boss emphasised the fact that there was no alternative to ensuring accountability, transparency and value for money in the public expenditure and contractive process if national development is to be guaranteed.
According to him, due process is the cardinal focus in the implementation of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, and it is also a common mantra in the international economics system and development.
Mr Akin Onimole, the General Manager and CEO of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, who led the delegation on the familiarisation visit to the Bureau, emphasised the fact that the Bureau of Public Procurement has set a standard through its public procurement reform that should be emulated in all the states. He stated that the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency has, in the last few years, watched with keen interest the giant strides of the Bureau and as such is most willing to follow in the same path.
By Peter Smith
April 8, 2013
Margaret Thatcher, who died today, was the United Kingdom’s most important politician of the last 50 years. She will be remembered for both her domestic leadership, as she turned round what seemed like a country in inexorable decline through the 1970s, and her role in foreign policy, from the Falklands to supporting Reagan in the “defeat” of the USSR.
But she can also take some credit as one of the key founding fathers (mothers?) of professional public sector procurement. Under her period of office as Prime Minister, 1979 – 90, we saw major advances in procurement throughout the public sector. As David Smith, Commercial Director at the Department of Work and Pensions, CIPS President last year and someone who was one of the pioneers of public procurement himself, said to us today:
“She was really the first Prime Minister in the UK to take seriously the whole concept that government spending needed to be efficient and effective. She instigated the first government procurement review in 1984, which really led to the Treasury Central Unit on Procurement being formed, more senior procurement staff in departments, and eventually OGC, ERG and all the focus we’ve seen since on public sector procurement”.
She also led the drive to involve the private sector more in the delivery of government services. Now, just like the more divisive side of her achievements on the economic front (miners’ strike et al), you might look either positively or negatively at “compulsory competitive tendering” and “market testing” as the beginning of the whole outsourcing boom and greater private sector involvement in public services.
But if you remember the days of the local authority works’ departments, and their total lack of any customer or VFM focus (and often a dollop of corruption to go alongside that), then it’s hard to argue against her view that competition and procurement had to be taken more seriously if the taxpayer was to receive value for money for an ever-increasing investment.
And as well as being arguably the inventor of public sector outsourcing, it was under her leadership that the first serious Procurement Directors started appearing in government departments. I did my stint as a government CPO not long after she’d moved on, but her influence was still clear in the approach of Ministers like Peter Lilley and Michael Heseltine, with their support for further innovative procurement initiatives around outsourcing and PFI for instance.
As David Smith said today,
“Whatever you think of her politics, she was a friend of the profession, and a genuine pioneer in understanding the importance of the role in the public sector. Many of the things we take for granted now in public procurement started because of her”.
RIP Baroness Thatcher.
- Margaret Thatcher: Pioneer of Professional Public Procurement (gateleyprocurement.wordpress.com)