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PSC’s suggestion to break deadlock over procurement commission workable- Attorney General

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall appeared willing to support a proposal by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for Cabinet to retain the right to object to the award of contracts for goods and services only if the law is breached.

“I think so once it reviews the role (of Cabinet). Cabinet doesn’t want to be outside of the procurement process,” he said.

But Nandlall’s concern that the PSC’s approach might be time consuming especially in times of emergencies has not gone down well with Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan who has already bought the suggestion by the business community. “That’s utter nonsense and everything could be fast-tracked,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. Government MP, Manzoor Nadir has told the House that there are very few instances in which Cabinet objects to the award of tenders.

Like in the existing procurement law, the umbrella business organisation says that an objection can only be made if Cabinet believes that the procedures laid out in the Procurement Act have not adhered to.

The PSC wants Cabinet’s objection to be made to the Procurement Commission as an oversight and appellate body, who will then review the reasons for the objection and make a ruling.

The recommendation further states that if the Procurement Commission disagrees with the grounds for objection and finds that the law was adhered to as per the Procurement Act, then permission will be granted to the National Tender Board to proceed with the awarding of the contract as recommended by them without referral back to the Cabinet.

The Attorney General, however, registered  his objection to a section of the PSC’s model that states that if the procurement Commission agrees with the objection, then the matter is sent to the National Tender Board to remedy the short comings and sent back to the Cabinet for their no objection, says the PSC. “I think that is workable. The only problem is a time factor. You see these contracts have to be awarded in a speedy manner,” he said.

Nandlall queried how long contracts would spend at the Procurement Commission after Cabinet would have granted its no-objection. “These things have to be time bound because government work, important work…,” he said, adding that during emergencies it is the government rather than the opposition or the Procurement Commission that would have to shoulder any blame for tardiness. “Whatever they are recommending, they must ensure that this thing is done expeditiously,” he said.

Ramjattan reasoned that not every contract would reach the Procurement Commission. “Those that obviously have procedural defects and are tainted with corruption will reach there and the Procurement Commission has other functions too,” he said. They include setting guidelines and formulating manuals.

The AFC Leader expected the Procurement Commission to also monitor the work of regional tender boards and overall create a greater level of confidence and transparency in the procurement process.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly has been advertising for nominees to the five-member Public Procurement Commission who would “reflect, as far as possible, the social, gender and political makeup of the country.”

Stakeholders, political parties, civil organisations as well as individuals who have an interest in the establishment and proper working of the Commission have been invited to submit the names of eligible persons based on a number of criteria. “The nominees should first and foremost be competent to carry out the required duties. The usual considerations regarding the need to be of good repute, without criminal records and no history of bankruptcy, apply,” states the request for submission of names of proposed nominees. The deadline is January 20, 2014.