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Opposition demands say in National Procurement and Tender Administration

Last Updated on Sunday, 1 October 2023, 14:24 by Denis Chabrol

Mr. Ganesh Mahipaul

A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU) parliamentarian, Ganesh Mahipaul on Sunday demanded that the opposition have a say in the processing and award of multimillion dollar contracts by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

“We need to amend the Procurement Act of 2003 and revisit the composition of the evaluation committee and tender board. The body has to be more inclusive and independent with membership that reflects the voice of the people, not just the Government deciding on the composition,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Mr Mahipaul, who is also a member of the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said NPTAB should have two opposition-nominated members just as the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) which is tasked, with among other things, investigating grievances and complaints as well as imposing sanctions.

The Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands) parliamentary representative for the coalition stressed the need to change the system to make it more representative and inclusive. “We are talking about fixing the system and getting it right. As a young politician my concern is about us getting it right not about what it has always been. Going forward for the benefit of all Guyanese it must be about us getting it right,” he said.

The NPTAB consists of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) candidate Gloria Beharry, PPP politician Steve Ninvalle, PPP supporter Desmond Mohammed,  as well as Mark Conway.  In the Official Gazette, Ninvalle, Beharry and Conway are listed as “non-government” members while Mohammed, Lord, Omar Narine and NPTAB Chairman Tarachand Balgobin are described as “government” representatives.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton recently said the opposition has not been invited to sit on State boards. There are several boards that require opposition representation but they remain vacant.

Alleging unspecified corruption in the award of contracts, Mr Mahipaul, who is a Central Executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), called for a probe into that government agency. “Consequently, it is not only justifiable but imperative to call for an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the operations of the NPTAB,” he said.

Mr Mahipaul said the the Procurement Act of 2003, unequivocally mandates that contracts be awarded to the lowest, most responsive bidder. He alleged that alarming pattern has emerged where the lowest bidders, in several recent projects, “seem strangely bereft of responsiveness when the NPTAB bestows contracts upon them.”

Demerara Waves Online News was reliably informed that NPTAB or the procurement agency does not automatically award contracts to lowest priced tenders but to lowest evaluated tenders based on a number of factors such as the life-cycle operational costs over a given period, availability of spare parts if its equipment, minimum experience, pricing, and access to cheaper materials in stock.

The emphasis is not on the lowest price, but the lowest responsive tender based on those that have been evaluated because in some instances a number of them are not eligible for further consideration because they do not have tax and National Insurance Scheme compliance or bid security, Demerara Waves Online News was told.

The opposition lawmaker alleged that the procurement system was being skewed but the PPC has not been taking any action. “This distortion of the system not only undermines the principles of fairness and equity but corrodes the very foundations of a just and accountable government,” he said.

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October 2023