AUDIO: Interview on 104.7 MORE FM on Public Procurement reform

This is my interview earlier today with Gerard Small and Robert Amar on 104.7FM MORE FM on the proposed changes to the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act. I also commented on my concerns with respect to the position of the Opposition UNC. Audio courtesy 104.7 MORE FM

  • Programme Length: 00:21:01
  • Programme Date: 3 December 2020
Interview with Gerard Small and Robert Amar on 104.7 MORE FM

VIDEO: Ministry of Health new HQ bldg – a Worked Example of Public Private Partnership

This is my quick analysis of the new Headquarters building for the Ministry of Health at the corner of Queen’s Park East and Jerningham Avenue in POS.  This is a Public Private Partnership project, which was was declared to create annual savings of $10M.

  • Programme Length: 06:23
  • Programme Date: 2 December 2020

VIDEO: Preliminary views on the proposed amendments to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act

These are my preliminary views on these proposed amendments due to be debated by the Government on Friday 4th December 2020, with the principal question being how can the Act be lawfully amended.  The Act was passed in January 2015 with a Special (three-fifths) majority in both Houses of Parliament, so is a Special majority required to make these amendments?  My Hansard reading of both prior amendments – #5 of 2016 and #3 of 2017 – is that those required Opposition support. 

There are conflicting views on the legality of amending this Act via a simple majority…according to “…House Leader Camille Robinson-Regis…the five bills will be introduced and be taken through all their stages.

“We’re assuming they will all pass. They are not anything difficult and they are all simple-majority bills.” (see Newsday ‘Procurement Bill for House‘ Wednesday 2nd December 2020).

It was also very concerning to read the Opposition Leader’s statement issued later that day, which was silent as to the proposed exclusion of Government to Government Agreements and Public Private Partnerships. This is a moment in national development which will require our utmost vigilance if the Public Interest is to prevail.

The proposed amendments are –

  • S.4 – to redefine ‘bid-rigging’ as collusive acts designed to unfairly influence the outcome of a competitive tender process – this is an improvement over the current wording which refers only to proceedings;
  • S.7 (2) to be amended by inserting a full-stop after the word ‘prevail’ and deleting all subsequent words – the impact of that would be to entirely remove Government to Government Agreements from the oversight of the OPR which would be extremely detrimental, given our poor track record in these G2Gs.
  • S.7 to be further amended by inserting two new subsections – Ss (5) which will remove from OPR oversight any legal services; financial services; accounting or audit services; medical services; or any other services as determined by the Minister…Ss (6) to make those Ministerial determinations operative by a Negative Resolution.  These proposed amendments are detrimental in two ways – firstly, it appears entirely likely that PPPs would be re-labelled as a form of ‘financial services’ and therefore beyond the scope of OPR oversight – secondly, there is an  irreconcilable conflict in having an Act dedicated to proper oversight of ‘Transactions in Public Money’, which explicitly prevents oversight of financial services, the accounting and auditing of those or the legality of them…the legal, financial services and accounting/audit functions are central to sound principles of good governance, so how can we agree to place those issues ‘out of bounds’?

The revised S7 is embedded here with deletions in strikethrough and insertions highlighted for ease of reference –
“Section 7.

  1. This Act applies to public bodies and public-private partnership arrangements.
  2. To the extent that this Act conflicts with an obligation of the State under or arising out of the following:
    (a) a treaty or other form of agreement to which Trinidad and Tobago is a party with one or more States or entity within a State;
    (b) an agreement entered into by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago with an international financing institution; or
    (c) an agreement for technical or other cooperation between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Government of a foreign State, the requirements of the treaty or agreement shall prevail. except that the procurement of goods, works or services shall be governed by this Act and shall promote the socio-economic policies of Trinidad and Tobago and shall adhere to the objects of this Act.
  3. A procuring entity engaged in procurement proceedings relating to a treaty or agreement referred to in subsection (2)(a) shall comply with section 29 and submit a report on such compliance to the Office.
  4. The Office shall, within twenty-one days of receiving a report under subsection (3), forward a copy of the report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall cause the report to be laid in Parliament at the earliest opportunity
  5. This Act shall not apply to the following services provided to public bodies or State-controlled enterprises
    (a) legal services;
    (b) financial services;
    (c) accounting and auditing services;
    (d) medical services; or
    (e) such other services as the Minister may, by Order, determine.
  6. An Order under subsection (5) shall be subject to negative resolution of Parliament…

I don’t have comments on the other proposed amendments.

Correction – Please note that the new HQ bldg I mention at the end of this video is for the Ministry of Health, not the Ministry of Education – sorry, but I mis-spoke!

VIDEO: African Association Credit Union of T&T webinar

This is the post-budget webinar presented by the African Association Credit Union of T&T, hosted by Colvin Blaize (Licenced Land Surveyor & Attorney-at-Law). Other guests were Brian Manning MP, Minister in the Ministry of Finance & the Economy and Esric Huggins (Valuation Surveyor) who spoke on the Property Tax. I spoke on Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act delays. Video courtesy AACTT

  • Programme Length: 02:13:32 My presentation begins at 31:55
  • Programme Date: 31 October 2020

VIDEO: Keep It Real on Synergy TV – 8 November 2020

Afra Raymond did this interview on ‘Keeping it Real‘ on Synergy TV with Denice Ramdhan and Andy ‘Pitbull’ Williams to discuss the delay in finalising and implementing the new Public Procurement law. Video courtesy Synergy TV.

  • Programme Date: Sunday 8th November 2020
  • Programme Length: 01:21:03. Interview Starts at 47:01
Keeping It Real Talk Show | Sunday 8th October 2020

VIDEO: Ensuring Transparency in the Procurement Process

I participated in an online conference organised by the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute on Governance Practices in the State Sector with the specific focus on Public Sector Procurement. I spoke on Ensuring Transparency in the Procurement Process. Video courtesy the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute.

  • Programme Date: 29 October 2020
  • Programme Length: 01:17:50

VIDEO: T&T Post Budget 2020/2021 Review

Dike Rostant interviewed Afra Raymond on the 2021 budget in which he covered the delay in proclaiming the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act; the Public Private Partnerships; the proposals for HDC housing (affordable?); the level of State rents and the fact that Information and Transparency are essential Public Goods. Video courtesy TTT

  • Programme Date: October 6, 2020
  • Programme Length: 00:18:51

VIDEO: Conversations For Change 8 COVID-19, An Opportunity for Reset : Views from the Global South

undefinedAfra Raymond joins the Future Law Co-Founders:

  1. Margaret Rose-Goddard — Legal Futurist, Founder the Caribbean Procurement Institute, Disclosure Today, Global Social Entrepreneurship Award Winner, serial social entrepreneur and trailblazer in public procurement, anti-corruption and civic empowerment, and
  2. Anja Blaj, — Chief Strategist Officer- Future Law Institute, President of Blockchain Think Tank Slovenia, Level Counsel at Datafund and the Co-Organizer of the DGOV Foundation,

for a riveting and revolutionary-rousing discussion on Democracy, Information Tyranny, Capitalism, Colonialism and his views on the T&T’s COVID-19 Recovery Committee and the enigmatic and exclusionary modus operandi of such committees thus far on the island and their lack of effectiveness thus far in bringing about real progress towards an equitable, sustainably developed society befitting the country’s wealth of human and natural resources. Video courtesy Future Law.

  • Programme Length: 01:13:26
  • Programme Date: 10 May 2020

Proposals to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Team

I am making two proposals to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Team appointed by the PM on 16 April 2020 –

  1. Transparency – the draft/interim/provisional Reports of the Recovery Team should be published now for the widest public participation and;
  2. Procurement – the very first priority of these Recovery efforts must be full implementation of our country’s new Public Procurement system.

These proposals are set out in greater detail here –

Recovery Team Process

Given the unprecedented scale and scope of this crisis, it is imperative that maximum public confidence and participation be achieved.  The current method is for public submissions to be invited and for the completed Report to be published, presumably after it is approved by Cabinet and debated by Parliament.

We are are all in this together‘ must move, from being a slogan, to a different and embracing way of working so that the invaluable and intangible fundamental of public trust could be built in this period.

Given the highly-charged atmosphere emerging from this major disruption and the added fact that this is an election year, it will be extremely difficult to achieve the required high level of public confidence, or buy-in, if the usual approach of publication at the final stage is adopted.  This is an opportunity to take a more inclusive approach which would see the draft Reports published for public input as the Recovery Team does its important work.

In support of this proposal, please consider that we have long adopted an effective and open process for creation of new public policy and/or laws via the appointment of working parties/advisory committees; invitation for submissions; publication of Green Paper; further comments on that Green Paper; publication of White Paper; final comments on White Paper and ultimately, official adoption of new Policy and/or creation of new law or regulations.

One can readily accept that these are exceptional times which significantly limit the time one could allow for comments, but equally, one could realistically assert that today’s ease of communication is so great that the opportunity ought not to be missed to place this exercise of national importance into the front and center of our inescapable journey to being an open society.

Priorities and Targets

This crisis presents at least three interlocking challenges –

  1. sharp declines in national revenue due to convulsions in the global energy markets;
  2. steep increases in claims on those declining Public Monies in terms of relief for unemployed persons and affected companies;
  3. the stark fact that no one can tell just how long this crisis will endure, or indeed, what shape it will take in time to come.

It is therefore now more important than at any point in our past that every possible step be taken to get the most from our dwindling Public Money.  We need strong measures, first of which should be full implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, including operationalising the Office of Procurement Regulation.  This would be an indispensable safeguard to greatly reduce the large-scale, widespread wastage and theft of Public Money with which we have been beset and which we can least afford at this time.

On 28th February 2020, the Finance Minister told Parliament that –

…The last correspondence from the regulator was received by the Minister of Finance on December 18, 2019…Following that letter of December 18, 2019, the draft regulations and proposed amendments to the Act were submitted to Cabinet and sent to the Legislative Review Committee for final review.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, it is anticipated that the final amendments to the Act will be laid and debated in Parliament in March 2020, followed by the regulations shortly thereafter….”
(pages 6 & 7 of Hansard)

COVID-19 only forced office closures towards the end of March 2020, so the LRC has had those papers for final review for at least three months.  The completion of the regulations, handbooks and guidelines for the implementation of this important new law is now imminent, so we need to ensure that this is a first priority in light of these exceptional challenges. 
The global story is as criminal as it is common, with widespread reports of large-scale corruption unfolding in the new situation of fear and urgency caused by the COVID-19 crisis.  We are witness to the Shock Doctrine in real-time as a proof of the olden learning that ‘haste makes waste‘.  We must do better.

A variety of authoritative source material is attached in support of my latter proposal (see below) and I trust that these proposals will be given due consideration by the Recovery Team.

Afra Raymond – afraraymond.net