Public Procurement Delays, part two

As far as I know, there has been no response from Finance Minister Imbert to the points raised in the previous article. Of course, no response is required, but given the importance of the issue and the highly engaged communication style of that Minister, I certainly had cause for a pause.

This article will continue last week’s examination of the delays, but first, some background. The new Public Procurement system replaces the Central Tenders Board, so it is useful to note that although the CTB Act is a 1961 law, the first Board was not sworn-in until 1966 – a full five years after the law. Note well, too, that this was at a period when the CTB Act had the full support of the first PNM administration of Dr Eric Williams and the opposition forces were then a mere shadow of their current selves.

Given that background, what can we make of these delays in getting the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) up and running? Firstly, even though The Act is No. 1 of 2015, the first OPR Board was appointed two years ago, in January 2018, under the Chairmanship of Moonilal Lalchan.

 

tt-procurement-board
Board of the Office of Procurement Regulation sits with former President of the Republic, Anthony Carmona (front row, centre). Board Chairman, Moonilal Lalchan seated, second from left, front row. Other members of the Board include: accountant David Charliere, supply-chain manager Frederick Bowen, civil engineer Dr Anthony Lamb, attorney Robin Otway, procurement manager Herdis Lee Chee, Human resource expert Lara Quentrall-Thomas, civil engineer Sandra Sammy, project manager Nadine Bushell, and youth advocate Nikoli Edwards.

The JSC Report of 6th May 2019 gives insight into some issues in its Summary of Evidence, Findings and Recommendations.

Infrastructure

“…13. Discussions were carried out with iGovTT and the Ministry of Public Administration for the supply of three-hundred and sixty-five (365) Microsoft Office Licenses by November 2018…” (pg 27)

Given that the OPR’s staff is 37 persons, with a Board of 11 members, I find that to be a great investment in Microsoft, perhaps a misprint?

Since writing this article, I have learned that in fact those were ‘Microsoft Office 365’ licences, so this is really a mis-print in that JSC Report.

Finances and Funding

“…18. To cover the costs associated with recurrent expenditure and establishing the office the OPR requested seventeen million nine hundred and sixty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-one dollars (TTD 17, 963,331) for fiscal 2018/2019. The sum allocated was seventeen million eight hundred and fifty-seven thousand, seven hundred and eighty dollars (TTD 17, 857, 780)…” (pgs 28 & 29)

Recurrent expenditure seems to have been well provided.

“…19. Under the State’s ‘Development Programme’ the amount requested from the Ministry of Finance Budget Division for fiscal 2018/2019 was three million six hundred thousand (TTD 3, 600,000) but the sum actually allocated was one million (TTD 1,000,000)…” (pg 29)

The allocation for capital development – of databases etc – seems to have been under-served.

What is at stake?

oprWe need to understand what is at stake here, as these are monumental, institution-building decisions. The OPR is meant to provide proper control and oversight of the huge variety of large-scale transactions in Public Money undertaken by the State and its agencies. The OPR has to be properly funded and ready to undertake its serious responsibilities, if it is to have the intended effect. The epic waste and theft of Public Money is a scourge on our nation and its practitioners are so skilled at these wily and sometimes brazen acts that it is vital for the Public Interest to be served by a solid and well-prepared OPR.

The $20M or so which the OPR will need for its annual expenditure in its initial stages is a serious investment in our collective future, which we would expect to have an immediate, noticeable effect in curtailing the high levels of waste and theft of Public Money. It is clear to me that a well-operated OPR would have a salutary effect on how our Public Service operates. The money spent on the OPR would be money gained in terms of savings, all in service of conserving scarce Public Money.

But we need to be equally clear that it is not only in terms of Public Financial Management that the OPR’s work is potentially transformative. Most of the major transactions in our country involve the State or its Agencies and there is a widespread impression that those dealings are mostly turbid, to put it in its best light. This is a long-overdue and critical attempt to restore confidence and comfort in our Public Services. Indeed, in our very selves.

Charting the implementation process

This chart provides a detailed status of the various items to be accomplished in the period between establishment of the OPR and full implementation of The Act.

No. Item Status
1 Office accommodation for OPR Done
2 Stationery Done
3 OPR Board Appointments Done
4 OPR Staff Appointments 97% done – all essential staff have been appointed.
5 Establishment of OPR Database Done – final testing underway.
6 OPR Board of Directors Training Done
7 OPR Staff Training Ongoing, but all essential training is done
8 Training of Chief Procurement Officers Done
9 Training/Liaison with other External Agencies Done, via 175 sessions.
10 Draft Whistle blowing process Done
11 Draft Investigation protocol manual Done
12 Draft Code of conduct manual Done
13 Handbooks and guidelines 23 completed and on website as drafts, with five more to be uploaded this quarter.
14 Draft Regulations and suggested amendments to The Act With Finance Ministry since 2 September 2019 – response awaited.

Note – the Handbooks and Guidelines will remain in draft form until the Regulations and proposed amendments are approved, at which point those can be settled.

5 thoughts on “Public Procurement Delays, part two

  1. Mr Raymond I admire your drive in getting things right in Trinidad and Tobago. The question is where are the various agencies such as Transparency International (local Body), Law ass., etc.? There is a similar situation with the Insurance Industry and the Credit Union movement. The economy of TT nearly collapsed due to poor governance, outdated legislation, bad oversight, corruption etc. at the time. We have heard how directors and shareholders of insurance companies played with policy holders money. We heard how credit union directors not managing credit unions properly. One of the culprits was the Commissioner of Cooperatives etc. Legislation was drafted, debated and approved, passed in parliament over two government administrations but the bill has not been accented and implemented. Why?????. The citizens of this country are left powerless and exposed to fraud and mismanagement by the insurance industry and the Credit Union movement. This legislation must be implemented now.

  2. His refusal to respond is an inditement government never want that system in the first place. Like the Licensing of Contractors, TTCA was told the document was misplaced. Deputy PS was managing and was chairmen of the committee. Furthermore, how will the ministers of government make money?

  3. I believe that the institution of religion here, though not as moneyed as its US body, is outfitted to provide the clout needed to advocate for positive change. Talk without action is the motto of the weak.

  4. General Election is to be held this year. The citizens should hold all aspiring political parties to the commitment that they will implement this legislation and the Insurance Act. We are done with political parties getting into government for their own benefit and be damned with the needs of the citizens who pay their generous salaries and benefits. What is the position of the President in this situation?

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