The Guyana government on Thursday announced that it was moving to amend the Procurement Act to ensure that Cabinet retains an oversight role in the award of contracts but this is not expected to win the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) support for amendments to the financial crimes legislation.
Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon told a news conference that government would introduce an amendment to the PPC Act at the next sitting of the 65-member House and later proceed to name its nominees.
Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) said the Attorney General’s chambers was busy drafting the amendments to address a conflict of provisions in the Procurement Commission Act.
The conflict is between Section 54(1) and 54(6). 54 (1) states that the Cabinet shall have the right to review all procurements the value of which exceeds fifteen million Guyana dollars. The Cabinet shall conduct its review on the basis of a streamlined tender evaluation report to be adopted by the authority mentioned in section 17 (2). The Cabinet and, upon its establishment, the Public Procurement Commission, shall review
annually the Cabinet’s threshold for review of procurements, with the objective of increasing that threshold over time so as to promote the goal of progressively phasing out Cabinet involvement and decentralising the procurement process. 54(2) states that Cabinet’s involvement under this section shall cease upon the constitution of the Public Procurement Commission except in relation to those matters referred to in subsection (1) which are pending.
AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, however, vowed not to support entrenching Cabinet’s role in offering its no-objection to contracts approved by the commission whenever it is constituted. “We are not supporting that at all,” he said.
Ramjattan insisted that his seven-seat party would only support amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism Act if the Procurement Commission is first set up and operationalized. “If they do not set it up and get it running, I will not support the Anti Money Laundering Law when it comes to the Parliament,” he said.
With the AFC and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) having submitted the names of their nominees to the Public Accounts Committee, it is now left to the government to do likewise.
After that is done and the PAC reaches consensus on the composition of the five-member commission, the names would be sent to the House for a two-thirds approval.
Despite outcries from several private sector organisations and lobbying by key Western diplomats here, the opposition up to Wednesday appeared hell-bent in opposing amendments to the AML/CFT. The private sector and government have warned that if the amendments are not approved in early November, Guyanese businesses and ordinary persons could experience long delays and other difficulties in incoming and outgoing financial transactions.
The opposition parties have accused government of attempting to ram the amendments through the House by not allowing their full involvement in the Select Committee. In the absence of opposition members, the government members wrapped up the committee’s work and decided to dispatch a report to the House for consideration.
For its part, the government has argued that it has given the opposition sufficient time to participate in the work of the select committee.