The previous article explained that our Parliament reduced independent oversight of the biggest contracts in our country. But all the power is not in Parliament, so it is important to note that civil society has substantial power and influence in these public policy matters.
For example, take the June 2019 attempt by the government to effectively erode citizens’ right to information held by Public Authorities, by amending the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). On 7 June 2019, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, laid proposals in Parliament to extend the existing 30-day time limit for Public Authorities to respond to FoIA requests to 180 days. The 30-day time limit is regularly exceeded by Public Authorities, so the proposed extension would have made nonsense of citizens’ right to information.
Those of us committed to those rights to information took up the challenge by alerting the public to the perils, led by the Media Association of T&T (MATT) under Dr. Sheila Rampersad’s direction. Our brief, intense campaign culminated in MATT’s overflowing seminar on Saturday 15th June 2019 at Hotel Normandie, with Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj. SC being the powerful and persuasive lead speaker.
The AG withdrew the proposals ‘for further consultation’ and no more was heard on that count. This demonstrates that it is possible, by concerted, focused and informed agitation, to stop detrimental public policies.
Our history is replete with these important lessons. It is important to understand how these changes arise.Continue reading “Public Procurement Collapse, Part Two”