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As the Senate debates the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill, 2014 today, the private sector and civil-society groups are calling on the public to join them in urging the government to have the bill passed before Parliament is prorogued next month. Making the call was chairman of the Private Sector Civil Society Group on Public Procurement Winston Riley during a press conference at the Normandie Hotel, St Ann’s. He said civil society had endorsed the bill with a few amendments to be implemented as promised by the government.
“That is, the whole question of a proper definition of a procuring entity which does not confuse the issue of ‘procuring entity’ with ‘public body,’ and a look again at the issue of disposal within the bill itself. “The third one has to do with the role of civil society in the bill itself. What we want is a corps of people who have a direct interest in the whole question of procurement and are able to give guidance to the issue of procurement and the regulations,” Riley said. He said internationally, civil society had been playing a greater role in governance because laws by themselves did not ensure good governance. “What ensures good governance is the activity of the people within the society and if that can be entrenched in the law, then I think we will go a long way in the whole issue of coming to terms with good governance,” Riley added.
He said it was a tremendous achievement that there was a bill before the House which was laid in the Senate last April 2. “The biggest issue with the bill is that there was an exception clause, 7 (2), which allows all relationships between our Government and another government and also any relationship our government has with financial institutions not to be subject to the bill,” Riley said. He said there had been a reversal of that clause as mandated by Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie, which was welcomed by the groups. Also in attendance were CEO of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Catherine Kumar; president of the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AmCham) Hugh Howard; president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry Afra Raymond and president of the T&T Local Content Chamber (TTLCO) Lennox Sirjusingh.
Raymond, who also spoke, said the bill represented some 12 years of effort and must not become another Section 34. “We worked very hard to get a satisfactory bill. There are a couple of small points which we still need to work out and once we get that done and hopefully we get it passed in Parliament, we then want the entire act enacted. “We do not want another Section 34... first, last and never again. We don’t want the bill passed and then the section on public money is excluded, or the bill passed and the section on regulators excluded,” Raymond stressed.