THIS ARTICLE will appear on New Year’s Day — January 1, 2020 — and it is a direct criticism of the Government’s unexplained delays in the full implementation of the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act (the Act). In my view those delays are unacceptable and a serious cause for public concern.
On November 23, 2018, the Finance and Legal Affairs Joint Select Committee of Parliament, took evidence on the matter of the implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act. That JSC, under the chairmanship of Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC, heard from the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) and the Ministries of Finance and Public Administration. That JSC Report of 6th May 2019 gives a detailed and encouraging account of the steps being taken to bring this law into full effect. Sad to say, but at Page 23 of that Report we are told that:
“…The full operationalisation of the OPR should be completed by March 31, 2019 and all entities must be in accordance with the requirements of the Act…”
After that JSC evidence was given, the Finance Minister’s statement to Parliament on 22nd February 2019 gives typically stark criticisms of those who had found fault with the Government’s apparent delays in implementing the new system.
Given that the Act provides framework legislation, the actual oversight of these important transactions in public money is enabled via handbooks, regulations and guidelines, which were drafted by the OPR.
Detailed comments on those drafts were obtained from divisions of the Finance Ministry, as well as external Senior Counsel.
Those comments were submitted to the OPR by the Ministry in February 2019. But apart from commenting on the OPR’s drafts, the Minister went on to make this welcome point:
“…The Ministry of Finance therefore raised for consideration the inclusion of provisions that would mandate procuring entities to effectively maintain assets that were procured using public monies and setting minimum standards for such maintenance…”
Minister Imbert’s statements seemed adequate, concluding with:
“…I remain committed to attaining full implementation of the Act in the shortest possible time and the Ministry of Finance will continue to work assiduously towards that goal…”
Now consider the OPR’s Public Advisory #11 issued on November 13, 2019, which advises that the redrafted regulations were submitted to the Minister since September 2, 2019. I checked before writing this article and I was told that a reply is still awaited. Well I tell you.
I am also reliably informed that one of the key areas concerning the Ministry in settling these operational rules is the extent to which the OPR can oversee public private partnerships (PPPs).
That has been my information for some time, hence my steady focus on that procurement approach in recent times.
Given that PPPs are becoming a most important approach in terms of transactions in public money, this is a critical issue on which we must get clarity.
I was pleased to note that both the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute and Joint Consultative Council (JCC) have now made clear statements calling on the Government to implement this new law now. I am joining those calls, as the delays are as unacceptable as the
Afra Raymond is a Chartered
Surveyor, Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre Limited and Past-President of the Joint
Consultative Council for the
Construction Industry (JCC)—this discussion is hosted at