AUDIO: Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute webinar – 25 March 2020

Afra Raymond did a webinar with the Caribbean Corporate Governance Institute where he was the keynote speaker at what was originally carded to be breakfast seminar at Hyatt Regency. -Co-panellists were Chartered Accountant and CLICO Chairman, Claire Gomez-Millar and OPR Chairman, Moonilal Lalchan, which CCGI Chairman, Nigel Romano, chaired the discussion.  The topic was The role of the Board of Directors in light of the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act.

  • Programme Date: Wednesday, 25 March, 2020
  • Programme Length: 02:20:28

VIDEO: Webinar on Transparency in Procurement – 26 January 2020

Afra Raymond and Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan have a conversation on the decline of the Corruption Perception Index ranking for Trinidad and Tobago in 2019/2020. The topic is “Transparency in Procurement or Blindness to Corruption.” Corruption is not getting better in Trinidad & Tobago, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index. Marla interviews Transparency Advocate and Activist Afra Raymond to explore:
  • How Trinidad and Tobago is performing in the Corruption Perception Index
  • The current status of procurement legislation
  • Proposed amendments related to Government to Government and PPP agreements.
Programme Date: 26 January 2020
Programme Length: 47:47

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”

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.

29

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”

Public Procurement Delays

This article will appear on New Year’s Day – 1 January 2020 – and it is a direct criticism of the Trinidad & Tobago government’s unexplained delays in the full implementation of the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act (the Act).  In my view those delays are unacceptable and a serious cause for public concern.

On 23 November 2018, the Finance and Legal Affairs Joint Select Committee of Parliament, took evidence on the matter of The Implementation of the New Public Procurement System.

That JSC, under the Chairmanship of Independent Senator, Sophia Chote SC, heard from the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) and the Ministries of Finance and Public Administration. That JSC Report of 6 May 2019 gives a detailed and encouraging account of the steps being taken to bring this law into full effect.  Sad to say, but at page 23 of that Report we are told that – Continue reading “Public Procurement Delays”

Property Matters – Trinidad Hilton Improvements

Property Matters – Trinidad Hilton Improvements

At the end of January 2018, the Ministry of Trade & Industry and its implementing agency, Evolving Technologies & Enterprise Development Company (ETECK), announced the completion of a $7.6M project for the renewal of the Trinidad Hilton Pool. According to the official statements, that project was completed on time and within budget, as part of the State’s long-term obligations at that 418-room hotel. Despite those assurances, there was a series of condemnations which need to examined.

hilton-pools

Trinidad Hilton Management Agreement

Three of its interesting details –

  1. Hilton pays ETECK a rental of 76% of the ‘Annual Gross Operating Profit’ which is defined in the lease;
  2. ETECK is responsible for doing replacements, renewals, extensions or improvements to the Trinidad Hilton at its expense. That means that ETECK was acting within the lease terms in paying for those pool improvements;
  3. Hilton is required to prepare detailed accounts of the hotel’s operations and submit those to ETECK.

Please note that Trinidad Hilton is undergoing a hugely expensive improvement program since 2008 (see Sidebar).

I am not making an issue of the decision to do these improvements or making allegations of cost or time over-runs. There may be issues in those aspects of the project but I am not engaging those.

My issue has been and remains, that despite all the smooth press releases and so on, we are unaware of the underlying commercial arrangements by which these hotels exist. The three largest hotels in our country are State-owned – Trinidad Hilton; Magdalena Grand (formerly known as Tobago Hilton) and Hyatt Regency. Those hotels are operated by foreign entities under management agreements with the State agencies which hold the ownership interest. They can therefore be classed as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Since PPPs are currently being promoted as a development approach, those arrangements certainly ought to be closely examined, looking beyond the Hilton pool. Continue reading “Property Matters – Trinidad Hilton Improvements”