Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 15th 2014 Contents BG6 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2014 • WEEK THREE
An amendment to the Draft
Public Procurement Bill will
take into consideration mat-
ters of procurement in gov-
agreements, said Planning
Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie.
"The amendment of the bill would take into
consideration key issues that have been in
contention. The amendment will acknowledge
the sovereignty of the state and the rights of
governments elected to engage other govern-
ments in treaties and agreements. But that
clause will take into account in the matter of
procurement that the law on procurement
does apply. I think we have found a formula
of balancing these two issues," he told the
Debate on the bill is expected to begin in
the Senate next Tuesday.
Winston Riley, chairman of the Public Sec-
tor/Civil Society Group on Public Procurement,
had raised concerns about Clause 7 of the bill.
Tewarie said he had discussions with the
group and has found a middle ground on some
of the more contentious issues.
In April, Riley told the Business Guardian
Clause 7 of the bill was "disturbing" and that
the government-to-government clause should
"Clause 7 states that the act does not apply
to the procurement of goods works or services
arising out of a treaty to which T&T is a party
with one or more states or with an international
lending agency. Any international treaty that
has to do with goods or services is outside
the bill. The Prime Minster just came back
from China with billions of dollars worth of
investment. There are other government-to-
government arrangements on the cards with
Austria and Canada," Riley had said.
Tewarie said the main objectives of the pro-
curement legislation is to promote account-
ability, transparency, value for money, efficiency,
local industry development and sustainable
"The bill also speaks about a procurement
regulator that is independent of any ministry
and appointed by the president of the country.
It also speaks about the Procurement Board
being appointed by the president. The pro-
curement regulator is independent of any
political office and answers directly to Parlia-
ment," he said.
Tewarie spoke to the Business Guardian on
Tuesday at his office in the Ministry of Plan-
ning, Eric Williams Financial Complex, Inde-
pendence Square, Port-of-Spain.
Apart from the contentious Clause 7, Tewarie
spoke about other issues the Public Sector/Civil
Society Group on Public Procurement had
met and agreed on.
The first issue was a strengthened position
on public money, which was taken into account
and incorporated into the bill.
The issue of civil society participation and
the board including a civil society representative
was also incorporated, in addition to profes-
sional representatives on the board.
The third issue was the effective independ-
ence of mechanisms of regulation and griev-
The next issue was the value for money
linked to performance and efficient use of
"We incorporated them after the Legislative
Review Body met. Some of them were there
already, but what the Civil Society Group was
to have them strengthened," Tewarie said.
Procurement and corruption
Tewarie said this procurement legislation
will stem the tide and history of corruption
that has existed in the country.
"Corrupt people will always exist and cor-
ruption will always be something that people
will try if they can get away with, but I think
the independence of the Procurement Office,
the power of the Office of the Procurement
Regulator, the demands of the procurement
entity to report will ensure we have a much
fairer system and is less prone to corruption."
Tewarie said there will be "tremendous
transparency" once the bill comes into existence
as the Procurement Office will be autonomous.
"Every time a procurement entity does a
procurement, they are going to have to have
to report to the Procurement Regulator for
the procurement process. This means the Pro-
curement Regulator has the opportunity to
flag any kind of problem and intervene in the
procurement process if there are problems.
The regulator can even go so far to stop the
process. They will also report to Parliament,
which will bring the matter under public scruti-
ny," he said.
Tewarie spoke about penalties if the law is
"The intention is to make it as difficult as
possible, if not impossible, for corruption to
take place without being detected. Corruption
may take place, but I think it will be difficult
for it not to be detected. Some of the jail terms
can be as long as ten years, depending on the
kind of crime. Others are seven and five years
long. Bid rigging is a crime, that is, someone
who directly or indirectly attempts to influence
any procurement proceedings in an attempt
to obtain an unfair advantage in the award of
a contract. A person found guilty of bid rigging
is subject to a fine of one million dollars and
five years imprisonment," he said.
Tewarie said these fines apply to public offi-
cials as well as to people from the private sec-
"This is a document on public procurement,
but it also includes private sector people. Cor-
ruption does not take place because public
sector officials are corrupt alone,. It also takes
place because there is collusion with the private
sector. It ensures all players are kept honest."
He said this will be a big step for trans-
parency in T&T as those "harsh measures"
to punish offenders do not exist.
"I do not think the mechanisms that we
have introduced in this bill are as strong right
now. We have introduced strong mechanisms
to protect the citizens as taxpayers, and for
the citizens needing to have public trust in
the system, and for the citizens who want to
see fair play and want the business of Gov-
ernment well run."
Tewarie said enforcement is important in
ensuring the legislation is effective.
"Unless you have enforcement, the law is
only as good as the enforcement is possible.
What this law is doing is to create the condition
in which enforcement is possible if the insti-
tution, which is the Office of the Procurement
Regulator, is effective and it will be. It can
send something to the Office of the Director
of Public Prosecution (DPP) so that whole sys-
tem has to work."
He said the change of culture will not happen
overnight and it is a process that will evolve.
"In the United States at one time racism
was rampant, but they changed the law and
enforced it. You have had a change of culture.
The enforcement of the law has affected the
moral tenure and the necessity to adjust behav-
iour," he said.
He said there is the speed of justice in First
World countries, but it would take a while in
developing countries like T&T to happen.
"It depends on whether we have serious
people who are interested in having a decent
society rather than just talking about one. This
requires a certain type of behaviour. It requires
values and a certain ethic that informs the
culture and practice and habit becomes aligned
to that value system," he said.
"I think there are some people in the society
who are very mature and very sophisticated,
and I think the society aspires to reach that
level of maturity and sophistication. It would
be foolhardy of us not to aspire to that and
expect a different society," Tewarie said.
At the same time, he said there is corruption
in developed societies, but it is dealt with.
"Sometimes, in spite of the structures and
institutions they have, corruption does take
place. The difference is in those societies, once
it happens, it receives attention and the law
is enforced and someone is brought to justice,
and that is where our institutions are weak."
He said once the procurement legislation
is passed, he is hoping strong institutions
dealing with procurement issues will devel-
"That will help change the culture of the
society. Also, it will change the culture where
every day, every year, people making charges
of corruption, some of which might be totally
unfounded, but because of the uncertainty of
the situation, anyone can get up and accuse
anyone of being corrupt. That is bad and
undermines an ethical society," he said.
Regarding next Tuesday s debate, Tewarie
said: "I m am hoping the bill will find support
from the Opposition and the independent
Planning Minister on procurement law:
DR BHOE TEWARIE
The independence of the
Procurement Office, the power
of the Office of the
Procurement Regulator, the
demands of the procurement
entity to report will ensure we
have a much fairer system and
is less prone to corruption.
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