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Tewarie responds to Riley’s call to burn draft procurement bill: ‘We’ll work it out’
Burning the draft Procurement Bill is not in the mind of Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie as he is very optimistic the ongoing wrangle between the Government and the Public Sector/Civil Society Group on Public Procurement will be sorted out. “I have no doubt we will work it through. I understand their position. We are talking,” Tewarie told the T&T Guardian in response to questions on chairman of the group Winston Riley’s continuing call to burn the bill. “You can burn the bill. It is a waste of time,” Riley said in a Guardian report yesterday.
Riley said about 70 per cent of the procurement for goods, works and services in T&T is done through government-to-government arrangements. He said Clause 7 of the bill, which has been laid in Parliament and is yet to be debated, removes government-to-government arrangements from the legislation. Hence, there is no need for a procurement bill. Riley, indicating his grouse is not politically motivated, noted the issue is a decades-old one, since 35 years ago the then government removed government-to-government arrangements from under the Central Tenders Board Act. Tewarie said he and Riley are on the same page. “Riley and the Public Sector/Civil Society Group on Public Procurement are worried about corruption which has dogged public procurement in this country for decades. “They also know this is one of my major concerns in bringing the bill to Parliament. “And that has been the concern of the Prime Minister in trying to expedite the bill and get to this point. “We are on the same page as far as making it difficult for corruption to take place in the realm of public procurement is concerned.”
Asked to comment on Riley’s call to burn the bill, the minister said, “The bill has taken a long time, and a lot of toing and froing.” He said, at present, the Government is taking into consideration a number of views, including those of the Public Sector/Civil Society Group, members of whom “presented to the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) to get to this point”.
“I have speaking to Riley since the bill was laid in Parliament. His main objection is the government-to-government arrangement and Clause 7 of the bill.” Showing he really understood the group’s position, Tewarie listed their concerns about the bill. He said they were concerned about the protection of local industry and transparency in government-to-government arrangements, and wanted full disclosure to the public.
But he insisted it makes sense to have a balanced view on the procurement matter. “There is also the issue that governments do have the right to negotiate with one another. “There are such things are international agreements and governments negotiating terms and conditions. “The key issue is how to balance interests so, at the end of the day, citizens are in the know, countries get the best deal and the private sector in the receiving country also gets a fair share of the spoils,” Tewarie said, outlining the solution to the problem. He said while a country needs to manage the development of its local industry, it cannot operate as if it lives in isolation. He said bill is indeed very strong on protecting the local industry but, “We also have to manage international trade and investments.”