Public Procurement Delays – the tangled web

This series ends by examining the last five years in relation to the implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, No 1 of 2015 (The Act). This is my final article before I pause for a shift in focus and again, I am drawing on the public record for these positions.

My previous article traced the accountability arc of attempts by PNM governments to dilute our country’s accountability framework. That arc is rooted in the record, serving to dismantle the fanciful tales about ‘morality in public affairs’ and so on. According to Dr. Rowley – “Facts are stubborn things.”

MinFin-Colm-Imbert
Min of Finance, Colm Imbert, MP

Colm Imbert has served as Finance Minister since PNM’s general election win in September 2015. The provisions of S.7 of The Act, which apply to Government to Government Agreements (G2G) and Public Private Partnerships (PPP) have remained the same over that entire period.

The OPR Board was appointed in January 2018 by then President Anthony Carmona, as his final official act, so it was impossible to implement the new system before that.

Consider the budget statements over the five-year period 2016 to 2020.
Continue reading “Public Procurement Delays – the tangled web”

AUDIO: Procurement system delays – Power Breakfast Show, 30 Jan 2020

power102fmAfra Raymond was interviewed on Power Breakfast Show on Power 102.1 FM with Richard Ragoobarsingh and Wendell Clement on the delays in implementing the new Public Procurement system in Trinidad and Tobago.

Programme Date: Thursday 30th January 2020
Programme Length: 00:22:21

The Accountability Arc

inward hunger“…As Minister of Finance I was very much concerned with the decision to introduce a Central Tenders Board and take away the power to award tenders from elected representatives of local government bodies who enjoyed the privilege under existing legislation.  That unsound arrangement, bad in principle, was further vitiated by the tendency of local government councillors not to award tenders to the lowest bidder….”

— Dr. Eric Williams, Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister. (London: André Deutsch, 1969), 250.

This week I juxtapose the delays in implementing the Public Procurement system and the intended amendments declared by Finance Minister Imbert, against the history, so that the wider issue can be understood.  Minister Imbert is no outlier, he can be  located as the current manifestation of the PNM’s deep and historic unease with modern arrangements for Accountability.

ctb-ordThe establishment of the Central Tenders Board in 1961 was a high-water mark set by the first PNM administration in the ongoing struggle to ensure ‘morality in Public Affairs’.  Since that 1961 Act, which took five years to implement, there has been a push against those legal provisions by successive PNM administrations, uneven and not always successful, but always in the same dismantling direction.

One needs to excavate actual episodes, so that the accountability arc can be seen, beyond the smoke and mirrors. Continue reading “The Accountability Arc”

Public Procurement Delays, part three

PREVENTION OF CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC WORKS AND PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND CONTRACTING

“…:29. Promoting the inclusion of anti-corruption clauses in all state and public-private-partnership contracts…”
From the Lima Commitment ‘Democratic Governance against Corruption’ made at the Eighth Summit of the Americas in April 2018, to which Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory.

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Finance Minister Imbert responded at the post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, 16 January 2020 to the pointed questions raised by the media on the unexplained delays in implementing the new Public Procurement system.  The Minister’s stated that he had only received a final position from the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) on 18 December 2019, which was too late to take action, given that Parliament had its last sitting for 2019 on 16 December. Continue reading “Public Procurement Delays, part three”

Public Procurement Delays: the PPP aspect

This continues my series — Part 1 and Part 2 — on the unexplained and unacceptable delays in implementing the new Public Procurement system.  Those delays arise from the failure or refusal of the Finance Minister to settle the Regulations which are essential for the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) to be fully operationalised.

Despite his firm commitment on 22 February 2019 –

“…I remain committed to attaining full implementation of the Act in the shortest possible time and the Ministry of Finance will continue to work assiduously towards that goal…”

Continue reading “Public Procurement Delays: the PPP aspect”

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.

 

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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.

Continue reading “Public Procurement Delays, part two”