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Procurement officers trained to handle big development bank-funded projects

Participants being addressed at the closing session by Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill in the background

Procurement Officers are now expected to be better prepared to assess bids for huge multi-million dollar contracts that are funded by development banks like the Inter American Development Bank (IDB).

The 50 procurement officers from project executing units for IDB-financed projects, government ministries and departments and the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE) participated in the two-day training programme at the Grand Coastal Inn, Le Resouvennir, East Coast Demerara.

Titled Procurement Training and Capacity Building for Project Executing Personnel, the training programme was done in keeping with the international standards that have been laid down by the Fédération Internationale Des Ingénieurs-Conseils (FIDC)- International Federation of Consulting Engineers.

“What we’re trying to do is to make sure that people are firm, strong, control expenditure, control time but ultimately they behave to each other fairly and honestly in trying to get the work done for a fair price and get it done on time and to the quality demanded,” said consultant trainer, Robert Cochrane of the United Kingdom-based European Construction Ventures Limited.

He hoped that the special form of contract that was discussed during the two-day would result in a greater understanding of the process, better control of finance and the better roles of the employer, contactor and the engineer.

Cochrane noted that Guyanese have a lot of experience in handling small contracts. Improving procurement to recruit the right contractor and engineer at the beginning, Cochrane said, was key to minimizing cost overruns and inflated estimates. “One of the principles of project management is that any mistakes you make at the beginning tend to be multiplied over the time of the contract.

Participants were given group work to address problems on large contracts. Each group reported on handling those problems in addition to receiving advice from Cochrane.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) quoted Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill as urging participants to always be fair in whatever task is set before them. “We must have fairness in the context of government and people as it relates to work undertaken”. This must not be abused however, and managers must never let their personal relationships interfere with the job at hand. “Let contractors make excuses not the managers,” he said.

Stakeholders need to manage effectively and efficiently whilst sticking to the books, and it should never be forgotten that contractors are also a development partner, the Minister told the participants.

The issue of cost was also addressed by Edghill, who said that contrary to what he was told, the real profit in a contract should never be in the variation cost. Contracts must only be permitted variance costs based on very special circumstances, he reminded those gathered.

In closing, the minister stressed the need to ensure that where possible, savings must be obtained. He said that when savings are realised then others can benefit from this, and cited several cases where contractors indicated that due their efficiency they had managed to secure cost savings and these costs were used to undertake works that benefited other communities.

These practices have to be adhered to by procurement managers and engineers who service contracts approved by several international financial institutions such as the African Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Bank and IDB.