On Emancipation Day 2022 in Trinidad and Tobago, Afra Raymond reiterates his message on the deplorable excuses offered by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to fully implement its Public Procurement regime. He wrote previously, “We are being told by our [Attorney General] that the new Public Procurement law cannot be implemented at this time because a significant number of Procuring Agencies are unprepared, and that is totally unacceptable.”
Afra Raymond spoke with Shabaka Kambon on the Indaba radio programme on 91.1 Talk City. Their discussion centred on the ongoing delays in the implementation of the Public Procurement regime in Trinidad and Tobago. Audio courtesy 91.1 FM Talk City
Afra Raymond joins a panel on The Pandemic Economy, the pre-budget show on TV6 Television in Trinidad and Tobago, where he and the other speakers discuss the local construction industry and the public debt to it, public procurement along with the soon-to-be-implemented updated Property Tax regime. Video courtesy CCN TV6
I was invited to submit this article to compare and contrast developments between T&T and Jamaica in relation to the critical accountability, governance and anti-corruption work being undertaken by my colleagues at the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP) – this article was first published on JAMPJA’s website on 29 July 2021. Instead, I am provocatively posing the question as to why both our countries appear unable to prosecute or convict, far less imprison, any important or prominent person. It seems that we are actually unwilling to set and hold a high standard for conduct within our ruling class.
The anti-corruption discourse in our country usually rationalises the failure or refusal to prosecute any important persons for corrupt acts as being a result of our small size. After all, everyone has a friend who will ‘see for them’ – as we say in Trini, ‘A for Apple, B for Bat and these thieving people does C for theyself!’ Those friends will warn them, lie for them, forget for them or even lose a file or two for them. We have all had these frustrating discussions and wondered if we can ever muster the will or the wits to lock-up the important people who regularly commit acts of grand corruption.
An important aspect we seldom discuss is the toxic role of party political loyalty, in which national concerns are routinely replaced by electoral jockeying.
When one considers the global news on this anti-corruption struggle, it is clear that in some substantial way the tide has turned. In a variety of countries, the citizens have become so outraged at the damage that large-scale corruption has done to their societies that the authorities there have now started to take decisive action against this scourge. It all makes me wonder when is the Caribbean going to catch-up with the rest of the world in punishing these destructive acts.
I wish to present in this article a summary of my main points on the proposed ‘revitalization’ of the Nelson Mandela Park (formerly King George V Park or, before that, Pompeii Savannah) in west POS.
Some spaces are of such significance that they should be altered only after the greatest care and consideration—no hustle, no bustle! Nelson Mandela Park is certainly such a space.
Privatisation and PPP can have the effect of limiting or ending access to public facilities for poorer citizens, so we would need to have solid guarantees of right to access, regardless of income. Of course, that kind of approach is contrary to a model which relies on paying customers or groups.
Let us now take a closer look at the actual proposal.
THE EDITOR: The joint letter from my colleagues at the T&T Society of Planners and the T&T Institute of Architects raised very important criticisms of the current wave of urban development projects, with the chronic levels of unacceptable secrecy and fake consultations.
On the secrecy issue, the State reportedly refused the JCC’s Freedom of Information request for the POS Revitalisation plan on the basis that it did not originate in that Ministry and that this was a series of privately-conceived projects. Those are not lawful exemption grounds under the FoIA as the public is entitled to receive information ‘in the possession of public authorities’, so there is no requirement for the State to originate that plan.
The fake consultation issue is a long-term and valid concern which was especially noted as the 17th recommendation of the Uff Report (2009):
“…User groups and other interest groups should be properly consulted on decisions regarding public building projects, to ensure that relevant views can be expressed at the appropriate time and taken into account before decisions are made…” (emphasis is mine)
Of course, the sitting Prime Minister was the leading voice calling for that Commission of Enquiry and indeed played a major role as a witness. We need to insist on the maintenance of proper consultation if we are to use our limited development options for equitable outcomes.
THE EDITOR: As we enter yet another tight covid19 lockdown, one cannot help wondering how we slipped from our generally commendable performance in the first half of 2020 to these terrifying numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.
In August 2020, the COVID-19 regulations were changed to penalise unauthorised congregations and failure to wear masks. Despite the high stakes, I was sceptical as to how many of those tickets were actually issued and how many fines had actually been paid. For one thing, the evident levels of congregation and liming testified to people ignoring the law.
The AG confirmed – in Newsday’s May 5 edition – that fines for breaches of the covid19 regulations will actually be payable from May 15, with electronic payments also being an option. So it was previously impossible to pay those fines and it is deplorable that such an important element of our pandemic planning was allowed to remain incomplete at the stage of utmost importance. This was a true and costly failure of our public administration.
I have no doubt that the reckless behaviour would have been curbed if those fines were actually collected from those who received the reported 10,000 tickets issued. Yet here we are, on the edge of the precipice, wondering which official or department was responsible for this grievous lapse. No comment on this from the PM or any officials, so the Code of Silence seems intact, even when the health of the general public is at stake.
The Judiciary just invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for an electronic payments system, with a closing date of May 11. After examination of those EoIs, qualified contractors will be identified before they can be invited to tender, so some delays could be expected.