Sunday, August 10, 2008

Public procurement body still on hold despite June 10 deadline- Murray says PPP/C not treating it as priority

Public procurement body still on hold despite June 10 deadline- Murray says PPP/C not treating it as priority
Stabroek News. Posted By Staff On August 4, 2008 @ 5:13 am In News | 1 Comment

By Miranda La Rose

The PPP/C was anxious to pass the Public Procurement Bill of 2003 and to see the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) but five years later the party appears not to know when such a commission would be constituted.

Stakeholders on security who met with President Bharrat Jagdeo on March 12, 2008 had agreed to expediting within 90 days the appointment of the commissioners to the PPC, as well as the establishment of the five rights commissions.

The June 10 deadline for the establishment of the PPC has gone but according to PNCR-1G MP Winton Murray, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for the nomination of the members, the PPP/C was not treating the issue as a matter of priority.
The AFC, he said, has submitted the name of one likely nominee.

Governance and security
The decision to establish the commissions, including the PPC, was taken in the wake of two brutal massacres in which 23 persons were killed at Lusignan and Bartica with the objective of strengthening governance and at the same time matters of security. Since then there has been another massacre at Lindo Creek.

PPP General Secretary Donald Ramotar said that he was there when the Procurement Bill was tabled and the party was anxious for its enactment. He said it was not a case that the PPP was not interested in the establishment of the commission or that the names the party had submitted over five years ago were withdrawn from the Public Accounts Committee. He said that some of the names of the nominees were removed because some were no longer interested in being involved on the commission because it was taking too long to be established while some have moved into other positions that now have disqualified them from serving. The list at the time included Minister of Housing Harry Narine Nawbatt.
Asked why other nominees have not been resubmitted Ramotar said, “Well I don’t know for sure. I have not been focusing on them.”

Procurement system
However, he said the fact remains that public procurement was not being done by PPP members but by professionals.
Told that some government agencies were by-passing the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) in certain arrangements such as the Ministry of Health, Ramotar asked, “What about if they have been saving the government money? You never check on that?”

One of the big problems was the involvement of the multilateral financial institutions, he said, saying that in a case he remembers, one such institution operating in Guyana demanded that instead of the government buying generic drugs where it could be obtained far cheaper, that the ministry buy the drugs from companies where they had their own people.
PAC member Murray in an invited comment on the issue charged that the government was not interested in the establishment of a procurement commission because it was happy with the current situation where the tender process was wholly and solely controlled by the Ministry of Finance.

“This gives the government control over the procurement system,” he said, adding that the minister and the government were more comfortable with the persons they appoint to put on the board rather than having a commission that would be independent, impartial and that discharges its functions fairly in keeping with its constitutional mandate.
Like the PPP/C, Murray said, the PNCR-1G submitted the names of Guyanese of character including the only legal practitioner with experience in public procurement. The others included an engineer, an attorney-at-law and a chartered accountant.

He said that the PAC was still waiting on the PPP/C to resubmit the names of those who needed to be replaced so as to submit the names of the nominees to President Jagdeo for approval after they would have met with the approval of two-thirds of the majority of parliament.

The commission is to comprise five members who should have expertise in procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters but instead of identifying persons of this calibre, Murray said that the PPP/C was insisting that it has the majority of its nominees sitting on the commission.
He feels this is one of the humbugs in the nomination process.

Another reason why the party and government were not acting on the issue was that the multilateral financial institutions and the international donor community were leaving the matter unattended. This is a matter, he said, he has drawn to the international community.
“I don’t know why they are taking a hands-off approach,” he said noting, nevertheless, that recently the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressed its concerns about gaps in the procurement system here.

One of the saddest indictments on the system of procurement, he said, was the local private sector’s refusal to speak out about the unfairness of the tendering and procurement system when it affects them adversely.

Their refusal to take a public position that would appear to put the government under pressure, he said, was probably that their business or business interest would be discriminated against.

“In my respectful opinion, the President feeds that fear,” he said referring to a recent incident when the head-of-state made adverse comments about prominent businessman Yesu Persaud in public. President Jagdeo, he said, was not allowing an environment in which the business people would want to give their comments because they would always be afraid that their businesses would be adversely affected.

“They are afraid that their contracts would be withdrawn or when they bid next time they get no contracts. That is what is stifling this country and that is sad,” he said.

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