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”

VIDEO: Throwing Light on the Constitution

parliament-logoJosanne Leonard interviewed Afra Raymond on Monday 12th June 2017 on how the three parts of the state work against the backdrop of constitutional issues such as the separation of powers, the quality of representation and the size, origin and role of the Cabinet. Video courtesy Office of the Parliament

Programme Date: 22 May 2018
Programme Length: 00:21:37

The Plot to Pervert Parliament

We have witnessed two grievous Constitutional outrages.  We have to keep our eyes on the ball in this season of mass distractions. For the government, there is every reason for us to ‘move on’ and forget about these deliberate violations of our constitution.

  1. The first was the State of Emergency – declared on August 21 2011 – with no proper reason ever being given for the suspension of our Constitutional rights.  All the persons arrested were poor people.  All of whom had to be released for lack of evidence, in a situation where the Police had the complete freedom to search for evidence.  But what is worse, the suspension of our Constitutional rights was not used to gather evidence against the White-Collar bandits who have this nation by the throat.  That State of Emergency would have been an ideal opportunity to gather evidence against this most evasive, well-advised and malodorous class of criminal.
  2. The second was the S.34 scandal – on August 31 2012 – which I have called the Plot to Pervert Parliament.  This abuse of our legislative process allowed high-profile White-Collar Criminals to escape justice.

An abusive double-attack, so how do we speak the Truth to Power?

According to Abraham Lincoln “…Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power…

These scandals continue to echo in the mind of so many people that it is only a matter of time before we have a thorough Public Enquiry.  We must record who abused their office.  Also, we need to remember clearly, who are these apologists who are now insisting that nothing big happened and in any case, it is all over.

The Prime Minister explains her decision to fire the Justice Minister
The Prime Minister explains her decision to fire the Justice Minister

On Thursday 20 September, the PM spoke to the nation about the S.34 scandal. That was a memorable address which placed the blame squarely with Minister of Justice, Herbert Volney, whose dismissal was then announced. Quite likely the administration thought that would have been the end of the scandal.

The blogosphere has been ablaze with emails from one Herbert Volney – sometimes he claims that he is angry and betrayed; other times he is still devoted to the PM; then again he is critical of the new Minister of Justice and wants to be re-appointed; he is wrongly identifying people in the public eye.  It is like having a ringside seat at the implosion of a grown man.

One thing for sure is that Volney does not seem happy to continue taking all the blame for S. 34. So that means the complete collapse of the Official Version on S.34, which was that the Minister of Justice was largely responsible. It was always a doubtful strategy to build a case on the weakest strand of reasoning, but necessity is the mother of invention.

SIDEBAR: Minister of Justice vs the Chief Justice – Herbert Volney, MP, Sept 2010

volneyarchie

Some of the many unanswered questions must include –

  • The quiet shift – In between the lower House and the Senate, the meaning of S.34 was changed so that instead of a 10-year period from being charged, accused persons could apply to the Court to be discharged 10 years after allegedly committing the offences.  That was a huge shift in favour of those accused of White-Collar Crimes.  So what was the real reason for changing the law?  No one has ever said.
  • The Parliamentary assurances – We hear about public and private assurances over the proclamation of this Act.  It is unacceptable that some assurances are never recorded in Hansard.  All assurances must be registered, given the ongoing decline in the ethical standards of our Parliament – does anyone remember Volney’s insulting and bizarre ‘apology’ to the CJ, early in his Ministerial career?  See sidebar. An enquiry must place those assurances onto the record so that the public can be informed.
  • Did the President seek or receive legal advice before signing-off on S.34?  If he did, what was that advice?  If he did not, should he have taken legal advice?
  • Having determined that Volney was to blame, did the PM enquire why he committed these acts of gross misconduct in public office?  If the PM did enquire, what was Volney’s reply?  If the PM did not enquire, we have every right to be skeptical about the entire Official Version.
  • We are now seeing that the agreed pre-conditions for S. 34 are not in place, so why the early proclamation?  Was this just a ‘get-away-from-justice’ card for the Piarco Airport Accused?
  • The President’s request to the PM for a report under S.81 of the Constitution has now sparked a new wave of claims.  Where does the truth lie?

The way the politics plays in our country, I think that it is a good thing that we no longer seem to be on a march to any early election over S.34 or anything like that.  The political culture here is such that if the Peoples Partnership had won an early election called on this issue, however slight the margin of victory, we would have been decisively told to ‘move on’, as the electorate had spoken. This is exactly how a lot of the political nonsense endures.

We are now in a position to demand that the government put some serious effort into answering the many genuine questions which are buzzing on this issue.  An independent examination of the facts would be a start.

Learned, Lying Leaders are the bane of our country. No public official in our Republic can be above review, not even the PM or President. Our upcoming discussions on Constitutional reform must balance these questions.