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IDB official lauds Govt for procurement process

Published: 
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Michelle Cross-Fenty

Some 95 public officials from T&T and 18 from the region have been exposed exposed to procurement training in a programme that will lead to successful participants holding a Level 2 Certification provided by Chartered Institute for Purchasing and Supply. 

The first part of the training was held at the Regional Public Procurement Conference for Public Officers, which was hosted last month by the Government of T&T (the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, and the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development) in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organisation of American States (OAS), and the Inter-American Network on Government. 

The certification process involved an examination at the end of four days of lectures and discussions as well as a project that the participants were supposed to work on for a month. 

“The impact of the training is going to be far-reaching because many of the officials working in procurement in T&T have not benefitted from formal training, let alone certification, which takes it to an even higher level,” said IDB procurement specialist Shirley Maude Gayle. She added that the certification would give the public officials an internationally recognisable and acceptable qualification that is transferable and portable.

“More importantly, the training is going to ground the officials in the technical foundations of procurement practice, which is what the UNDP CIIPS programme does,” Maude Gayle said.  The conference was held a few days after the Senate agreed to accept the Report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament for Reforms to the Legislative Framework for Public Procurement, paving the way for imminent enactment by Parliament.  

In an address at the conference, the IDB’s T&T country officer, Michelle Cross Fenty praised “the significant strides made by the Government in its efforts to modernise the country’s legislative framework for public procurement, and the simultaneous recognition for the need to build capacity for improved public procurement across the public sector.” 

She also lauded the “strong and positive leadership” provided by Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie, who chaired the Joint Select Committee that debated T&T’s Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill.  

Cross Fenty said: “Minister Tewarie took responsibility for the process, and as a result of his persistent, determined, transparent and inclusive  leadership, which was underscored by his commitment to stakeholder consultation, the Government of the Republic of T&T was able to engender a high level of collaboration, coordination, communication, co-operation and consensus among key stakeholders on this critical piece of legislation.

“The IDB recognises and appreciates that this is, indeed, no small feat given the great gulf which existed among key stakeholders on some issues relating to the modernisation of the public procurement legislative framework.” In an interview, Cross Fenty described as “excellent” the consultation and the consensus building that took place on the procurement bill. She likened the process of arriving at a consensus to the legislative process in the US, where she worked as an attorney, and in the UK. 

With the T&T procurement bill, she said that this involved listening to different stakeholders and opinions and building consensus with “not just the Government, the private sector, civil society and the lobby groups.” Asked whether the bill would be effective in mitigating corruption, Cross Fenty said: “It certainly has the right ingredients. Hearing both Minister Tewarie and Minister Howai speak, I heard transparency, integrity and accountability in public procurement. 

“The transparency will come from the fact that there will be publication of all documents. In terms off accountability, aggrieved parties will have the ability to raise issues. There is also whistle-blower protection built into the legislation.” The IDB official said the procurement legislation also has the ability to impact T&T’s position on the World Bank’s competitiveness index “in terms of how fertile the country is for foreign direct investment. These are the kinds of things that the outside world looks at.”

She said: “This is a monumental moment in the history of T&T and it would be very good to recognise that.” But she added that any legislation is just the first step as it provides the policy behind what is being legislated. “But you have to look at the practitioners, the public servants and the other officials involved, which is where the conference came in. 

“It gave a forum to the practitioners, who got to meet their colleagues from other parts of the region, swapping notes, discussing common issues and creating a network that would allow further sharing.” The conference also had the support of Korean Government, the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC), the Canadian and UK high commissions and the UNDP, which conducted the training programme.

On Friday, a grouping of private sector and civil society associations noted that if the procurement bill is not passed by the Lower House of Parliament before it proceeds on its vacation break, the bill will lapse “requiring the process to start again with no guarantee of completion.” The grouping called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to ensure that the bill is debated and passed before the end of the current session of Parliament.