The APNU has joined the AFC in publicly stating its opposition to the president and his Cabinet retaining any role in the awarding of public contracts whenever the Public Procurement Commission is set up.
The AFC last week vowed to oppose government’s intention to amend the Procurement Act to allow Cabinet oversight to be retained. The Act, which was passed by the ruling PPP/C in 2003, calls for the phasing out of Cabinet’s involvement when the Commission is established.
When approached last week Leader of the Opposition and APNU Chairman David Granger was reluctant to address the issue saying that he did not want to prejudice discussions by setting out terms but on Tuesday he was more forthcoming.
“We are not in support of that, we are trying to remove the centralised control that the government exercises over all of these commissions,” he said.
According to Granger, they believe that “excessive centralisation will lead to further corruption.”
“That is why we are going through it in committee,” he added. Granger has called on the ruling PPP/C to name its nominees to the Commission and to have them all vetted by a parliamentary committee.
But the government is adamant that it is not open to the idea of relinquishing a role in the spending of public monies and will propose an amendment to the Act.
“Ninety-nine percent of infrastructural work in this country and the expenditure of public funds are linked directly to the procurement process, therefore if Cabinet and the executive is to be held responsible to the electorate of this country for the infrastructural development of this land and for the expenditure of public funds then Cabinet inevitably must have a role in the procurement process,” PPP executive member and Attorney General Anil Nandlall told reporters Tuesday.
He added that Cabinet’s role was merely that of an “observer” in the procurement process. Nandlall explained that Cabinet does not award contracts but rather states its objection or no objection based on the process the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and the Evaluation Committee would have followed.
“If we object then it goes back to the procurement process, it is not Cabinet objecting to say that we want it to go to Contractor X, we don’t want this one.
If for example Cabinet examines the documents which are presented and they see a flaw in the process, for example that a contractor … did not satisfy the criteria then Cabinet sends its back to the Procurement Board for it to be re-advertised,” the AG said.
Asked how it was that the PPP/C voted in favour of phasing out the Cabinet role in 2003 given its current position Nandlall pointed out that he was not a Member of Parliament at the time and he was unclear about what transpired.
The AFC has called for the establishment of the Procurement Commission as one of two conditions for its support of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill. Guyana recently secured an extension to November to have the bill in place after it missed a May deadline as a result of the AFC’s demands and the APNU’s for more time.
Failure to pass the legislation could open Guyana to sanctions from its bilateral partners and financial institutions.
The AFC’s nominees for the Procurement Commission are Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram and former Guyana Auditor General Anand Goolsarran.
The APNU’s nominees are Attorney-at-Law, Emily Dodson; Accountant, Nigel Hinds; Former Budget Director of the Ministry of Finance, Winston Jordan; Agriculturalist and former Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Manager, Tony Vieira, and Civil Engineer, Berkeley Wickham.