Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 1st 2014 Contents SGB20 COMMENTARY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 1 • 2014
"I would like to first commend the Govern-
ment for bringing this bill after much old talk,
after years of criticism and controversy. I think
that it is a very good sign, very healthy and
positive sign." Independent Senator
Helen Drayton during the debate on
the Procurement Legislation.
On Saturday May 24, the
People s Partnership cel-
ebrated four years of
being in government. It
was a time for jubilation,
but also for reflection and
deep self-assessment. But
in front of the very large crowd, the Prime
Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, took time
to pause during her address to publicly praise
the Minister of Planning and Sustainable Devel-
opment, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, for suc-
cessfully bringing the much needed Procure-
ment Legislation to Parliament.
The purpose of this bill is to promote the
public interest by prescribing the parameters
of a procurement system that provides certainty
thereby increasing public confidence in gov-
ernance, whilst allowing for flexibility of com-
mercial practice in public procurement. The
principles set out in the Bill also apply to dis-
posal of public property.
The Public Procurement Legislation was
finally laid in the Senate by Dr Tewarie. But
the minister stated, at that time, that debate
on the bill would not be initiated until at least
three weeks have elapsed, to allow time for
public scrutiny of the bill in keeping with
commitments already made to have the pro-
posed legislation in the public domain.
This was to ensure that all critical stake-
holders would still have time to examine the
bill, despite a previous protracted timeframe
set aside for meaningful public consultation.
It is important to note here that democracy
must be supported by both mutual respect
and dialogue. The Joint Consultative Council
(JCC) made a lot of noise in the public domain,
and this was being fuelled by the media. But
that did not deter the Government from reach-
ing out to these critical stakeholders to hold
discussions in a structured and civilised man-
In fact, Minister Tewarie continued to hold
discussions with the JCC and, in the spirit of
compromise, the thorny matter of having gov-
ernment-to-government arrangements (which
was excluded from being covered from under
the bill, similar to that of the Central Tenders
Board Act, Section 20A), be brought under
the purview of the Public Procurement Bill.
This development seemed to have brought a
strong sense of calm and ease to the JCC and
the Civil Society/Private Sector groups.
The independent senators took an active
part in the debate and brought very meaningful
ideas and suggestions for the purposes of
strengthening this particular bill.
They are seeking to ensure that the whole
issue of corruption, lack of transparency and
the legal technicalities of this bill will be exceed-
ingly difficult to exploit and circumvent by
those of an unscrupulous nature. In other
words, the practices of awarding contracts to
various suppliers by government will not be
smeared by allegations of nepotism and unfair
selection which will be very much minimised.
Senator Drayton indicated, during the par-
liamentary debate, her agreement that the
procurement regulator must be fully inde-
pendent and be accountable to a special par-
liamentary committee responsible for pro-
curement, rather than the Public Accounts
Committee (PAC) of Parliament. This has been
suggested by Senator Drayton because she
expressed concerns that there is already a sig-
nificant amount of work to be executed by
the Public Accounts Committee.
This is a significant suggestion which I think
the Government ought to consider.
For too long we have been subjected to ill-
founded rumours and half-truths about public
officials who are misbehaving in office, either
by way of accepting inducements or seeking
to provide easy access for their friends and
family to obtain government contracts. This
must now be a thing of the past. Whilst it is
acknowledged that a government can neither
eliminate crime nor corruption, it can put
robust strategic and legal measures in place
to mitigate these negativities.
Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin also
joined the debate and suggested that the Pro-
curement Board ought to be expanded to
include more professionals and specialists,
especially since this board will have oversight
over billions of dollars.
Again, this represents a meaningful sug-
gestion to strengthen the bill. The senator
went so far as to suggest that the salaries of
the Procurement Regulator and staff ought
not to be determined by the Salaries Review
Commission (SRC), as this body may not rec-
ommend the appropriate levels of remuner-
ation, and should be paid at market rates.
Another suggestion made by Senator Bal-
gobin was to commence the execution of value
for money audits. Such a practice is presently
executed by the National Audit Office of the
This audit will serve to measure the outputs
of public projects and determine what has
been achieved as indicated in original contracts.
The audit also takes into consideration econ-
omy measures, for example, did Government
get the best value at the most appropriate
price ? The audit also examines matters relating
to efficiency and effectiveness in obtaining
goods and services from contractors and sup-
Such constructive suggestions will only
serve to augur well for this bill to bear traction
and to be relevant for a long time to come.
I compliment these two independent senators.
I also wish to commend Minister Tewarie
for displaying courage, intellect, endurance
and an enormous spirit of compromise in hav-
ing this bill reach this stage and now being
laid in Parliament for debate.
It is imperative that all our nation s senators
put aside their political and idealistic differ-
ences, and seek to work assiduously to
strengthen this bill and have it passed in the
Senate so that the interest and well-being of
our citizens will be safeguarded.
Now is the time for T&T to become a more
competitive nation and seek to take its eco-
nomic performance to a much higher level.
Jai Leladharsingh is the assistant manager,
workforce development and business
process with the Coosals Group of Com-
panies. He is also a member of the Board
of Directors of the Chaguaramas Develop-
ment Authority. His contact: Jaishima.lelad-
The driving force behind
The Procurement Legislation
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