The Procurement Act is flawed
Stabroek News
May 31, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Contained in the Order Paper for the 27th sitting of the National Assembly scheduled for the 29th May 2002, was an item for the second reading of the Procurement Bill 2002. This bill which was introduced by the Minister of Finance, originated based on the insistence of the international lending agencies and the government's commitment for providing a more transparent procurement system. When passed the current Central Tender Board shall be replaced by the National Procurement and Tender Administration.

Our group, collectively referred to as the 'Building Forum,' comprising of the following organizations - Association of Consulting Engineering Firms of Guyana, Guyana Association of Professional Engineers, Guyana Contractors Association, Guyana Institute of Architects and the Guyana Quantity Surveyors Group - has been reviewing and commenting on this legislation since we were first made aware of the intention to revise the current procedures.

As a group, we have initiated meetings and exchanged correspondence with President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was then the Minister of Finance, his successor, the incumbent minister, three Secretaries of the Treasury, commencing with the late Ms Carol Hebert, and representatives of the international lending institutions (and their successors), in an effort to have our concerns regarding the proposed Procurement Bill addressed. We even went as far as retaining the services of an eminent Senior Counsel in order to obtain legal guidance on the contents of the proposed bill.

Our primary concern, was the composition of the new National Procurement and Tender Administration. Under the previous draft bill, the President was to appoint four persons from the public sector and three from the private sector.

We objected to this initial proposal, based on the fact that such a composition would lack transparency, as well as on the fact that there was an admitted paucity of technical skills within the public sector and the President was constrained to limit his search for those four candidates to the government services. We feel that the President should be free to search elsewhere. In addition 'private sector' appointments were too broad a definition. We recommended a list of organizations ranging from the Private Sector Commission, professional associations, consumer bodies and the University of Guyana, from which nominated representatives could be selected for service on the new board.

We are disheartened to note that not only have our major concerns not be considered, but that the new legislation provides for the appointment of five members from the public sector and two members from the private sector, all at the discretion of the President. This new format further exacerbates our concerns on the transparency of the new board.

Additionally, we highlighted various other concerns including the composition of the evaluation committee, contractual conditions, proposed rating systems, 'blacklisting' of prospective tenderers, conditions relating to disqualification on tenders, and several others items which we feel that any new procedure should encompass. None of these concerns were addressed in the Procurement Act 2002.

It should be noted that at all times, we sought to deal with all the above matters through direct consultation with the relevant parties. We have resisted the urge to involve any of the political parties, since we were under the mistaken belief that the government was positively addressing our concerns. It is now evident that any such approach is ineffective; sadly it appears that without the public inclusion of keywords such as 'discrimination' and 'corruption,' concerns from professional organizations would not be addressed.

In the hope of some future progress on this matter, we would like to state, 'The Procurement Act in its current format can lead to discriminatory practices and lack of credibility.'

Yours faithfully,

David Patterson

Building Forum