Last update: 11-Dec-2013 10:53 pm
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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JCC wants debate on its procurement bill
President of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) Afra Raymond has challenged Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, calling on him to publicly debate the merits of the group’s draft procurement bill as opposed to the Government’s Procurement Bill, which is to be laid in Parliament soon.
Speaking as a guest at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Port-of-Spain West at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s, yesterday, Raymond said if Tewarie and the Government were serious about using that bill then it should be publicly debated.
He said: “The challenge for Dr Tewarie is this: If you are really putting forward that bill as representative of the Government’s position on public procurement, if you are putting forward that bill as progress in the people’s interest, the JCC is publicly challenging Dr Tewarie. We want a public debate on these bills.” The JCC, along with other civil society and private sector groups, called last August for the draft bill to be withdrawn.
Raymond explained to the group of Rotarians the need for public procurement legislation. The group has worked on its own draft bill since 2003, he said. He added: “This group has been together since 2003 with the Cabinet-appointed committee to work on public procurement. “This is a civil society, private sector group lobbying for an improvement in the law to stop corruption in our nation’s affairs.
“We have written a draft law and submitted that to the joint select committee on public procurement before six months of the People's Partnership victory. “We wrote the law at our expense and that has not happened anywhere in the Caribbean before. “And what is happening now, there is a bogus bill being put forward by the Government that does not properly represent the public interest in this matter.”
The group, he said, was proposing three new bodies to address the issue of procurement: A procurement regulator, a procurement commission (to receive complaints and rule on them) and a national advisory council, composed of 14 members from the private sector and civil society.
He said both the regulator and commissioner would be appointed by the President and funded from the consolidated fund and report to Parliament and there would be an open database which would allow members of the public to see which contracts were available to whom. “The kind of transparency we severely lack at the moment. Some of the state agencies have it and others don't. That level of inconsistency is not compatible with progress,” he added.
He said the Government had the group’s draft bill since December 2010 and three revisions of it have been done so far. “The Government is yet to explain to the group the reason for the bill’s rejection. Our bill represents substantial progress in terms of what the country needs,” he added. The group, he said, wrote on August 8 to complain about the Government’s version of the bill.
He said the Government’s bill “specifically excluded from their proposed arrangements any government-to-government arrangements.” He said the government’s bill would regulate the transactions in public money except when it was a government-to-government arrangement. Raymond said the regulations were created by a procurement regulator which was similar to the group’s draft but in the Government’s version the regulations were approved by the Finance Minister.
He added the Government’s version of the bill contained the phrase “public money” but “is not connected to any of the other sections in their draft.” He said there were no provisions in the Government’s bill for civil society oversight as well. He said the group had two methods for going forward, by civil protest or by taking the high road of legal action.
Citing research done by the group, he said some Latin American countries made astonishing progress with respect to procurement regulation and legislation in the last 25 years. The countries that have made the greatest amount of progress and have the most effective public procurement systems were the ones that have serious civil society involvement,” he said.
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