The government, under the leadership of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu, has reinstated a policy allowing private sector proposals for development projects, just three weeks after its annulment of a similar policy instated by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration. 

This decision reintroduces elements of the Unsolicited Proposals Policy (USP Policy), pursuant to clause 10.27 of the Public Finance Regulations, previously in force, raising questions about consistency and transparency in public finance regulations.

The USP Policy, introduced under the Solih administration, was designed to promote private sector involvement in national development. It defined an unsolicited proposal (USP) as a unique solution to a government need that has not been formally opened for proposals or included in a specific government-designated project.

The policy emphasised compliance with the government’s pledges and development agenda, with the Ministry of Economic Development acting as the central submission point. The policy had a three-stage review process, focusing on innovation, competition, and transparency.

The current amendment, despite its ostensible repeal of the USP Policy, bears remarkable similarities. It permits private parties to submit proposals for development projects, similarly under the ambit of the Public Finance Regulations. The Ministry of Finance now oversees this process, with a three-stage evaluation system akin to the former USP Policy. 

The amendment aligns with the government’s strategic development plan and innovation, but it introduces a provision for direct awarding of works under specific circumstances.

The current administration’s decision to reintroduce a similar framework shortly after annulling the USP Policy could be construed as hypocritical, according to observers. This apparent policy reversal without clear justification undermines the government’s consistency and reliability, potentially affecting investor confidence.

Both policies aim to engage the private sector in national development. However, the new amendment allows for direct awarding of projects in certain situations, a deviation from the former USP Policy’s emphasis on competition and transparency. This could raise concerns about favouritism and lack of competitive bidding, potentially compromising the integrity of the process.

The shift from the Ministry of Economic Development to the Ministry of Finance as the responsible entity might signal a change in oversight and focus. However, the lack of significant procedural differences between the two policies raises questions about the rationale behind this administrative reshuffle. Transparency and fairness in awarding contracts remain paramount, and any deviation from these principles could be seen as a regression from the previous policy’s objectives.

The reintroduction of a policy similar to the previously annulled USP Policy by President Muizzu’s administration reflects a complex interplay of governance, policy consistency, and transparency. While the intent to foster private sector involvement in national development is commendable, the manner and rationale behind this policy reversal warrant closer scrutiny to ensure that it aligns with the principles of fair competition, transparency, and public interest.