Housing Minister Marlene McDonald says government is not backing down from its decision to amend the Procurement Bill brought to Parliament by the former Kamla Persad-Bissessar government because it was flawed.Further, she said the Act was not fully proclaimed.
Speaking at the T&T Contractors Association (TTCA) Contractor of the Year Awards and Dinner held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre on Lady Young Road in St Ann's, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday, she said while the Keith Rowley-led administration was aware of concerns raised by the fraternity on learning of Cabinet's intent to amend the law, reforms were absolutely necessary.
Last Friday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced in the House of Representatives that the procurement legislation has been forwarded to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament for scrutiny and expects a report by January 22, 2016.
Imbert said the JSC will then examine the policy and merits of the legislation and procedures for approving a procurement regulator to see if it made sense and was in the best interest of the country.
"Our intention is to amend and seek to reform and make changes which we consider essential. Our overriding reason is that the Act fails the expectation of the people. Members of your association may have held and many indeed still hold the view that there is legislation in place and notwithstanding our reservations, we should make them work. Our position has been clear. There are fundamental short comings in the Act.
Additionally, the Act did not engage the trust of the population and the belief that it would tackle most grievous issues consequent upon the absence of good procurement legislation. Further, it was only partially proclaimed," McDonald told the audience of contractors.
The minister cited that the Act in its present form did not protect the Office of the Procurement Regulator from political interference. Further, she said, the office holder had to be assigned greater independent powers similar to the Office of the Contractor General in Jamaica.
Referring to the People's National Movement 2015 campaign manifesto, Mc Donald said the party, in its bid to win back the government, said it would have implemented legislation that was modern, transparent and fair.
The government's position, she said, was due to the clear shortcomings in the Act, which had the potential "to compromise the effectiveness of the Act.
"In this regard, we have only yesterday (Friday) declared our intention to review the Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act to determine the appropriate amendments and to bring the necessary legislation in the shortest possible time. You will probably also recall that a draft internal control framework for public procurement in T&T was developed by the United Nations Development Programme after consultation with a number of stakeholder agencies. The draft framework is awaiting Cabinet approval."
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