AUDIO: Interview on Power Breakfast Show on Procurement Act amendments – 4 Dec 2020

This is my interview on the Power Breakfast Show on Power 102.1 FM with Paul Richards and Wendell Stephen on the proposed amendments to the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Act. Audio courtesy Power 102 FM

  • Programme Length: 00:18:54
  • Programme Date: 4 December 2020
Interview on Power Breakfast Show on Procurement amendments

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: 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

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”