The Government’s planned electronic procurement and supplier registry will create “fairness, equity and equal access” in bidding on public contracts, the deputy prime minister said yesterday.
KP Turnquest, pictured, addressing a seminar on the e-procurement and supplier registry, said it will help to level the playing field between small, medium and large businesses and ensure a minimum 20 percent of all government contracts go the former category.
“I know that for most businesses in The Bahamas that I have come across, one of the things that they have been concerned about is fairness and access,” said Mr Turnquest.
“We know how it worked in the past, where if your party is in power you get the contracts, and when your party is not in power you’re out of luck. This system seeks to try to create some balance, some equity and fairness across the system, so that we can take out these kinds of bias.
“If we allow the system to work the way it has been designed to work, it is going to create equity and it will result in savings and GDP business growth for all Bahamians.”
Mr Turnquest said the recently-launched Small Business Development Centre will aid the Government’s goal of ensuring public sector contracts are more widely spread among the business community.
“I think we all know that there are those entities who, because of their resources, have been able to corner the market on procurement and economic activities in this country,” Mr Turnquest said.
“Through the efforts of the Small Business Development Centre, we are hoping to empower the ordinary Bahamian who doesn’t have a rich parent or some connected source [so] that they will be able to obtain the kind of support and resources that will allow them to enter the mainstream and compete with the ‘big boys’ and the legacy institutions.
“That is very important. Because as we move into a more modern society, and as we have more and more of our young people coming into the sector with very high expectations, it is important that they have an opportunity to compete and fulfill their visions without unfair bias. So, we are extremely happy with what the Small Business Development Centre is doing, particularly in Grand Bahama.”
Mr Turnquest said the Ministry of Finance has spent months engaged in a reform effort to transform the entire system of government procurement. This, he added, involves legislative reform and the establishment of the online e-procurement and supplier registry system (E-PSR).
“When we speak of government procurement, we are literally referring to goods and services which central government or state-owned enterprises purchase,” said Mr Turnquest.
“Government procurement accounts for a substantial portion of the Bahamian economy. Naturally, that means that it also accounts for a substantial portion of taxpayer’s money. Rightfully so, taxpayers expect us to carry out public procurement fairly, transparently, efficiently and with high standards of conduct.
“Recognising the weaknesses in our current system that expose the Government to waste and corruption, the public procurement reform that is currently underway is aimed at modernising the public procurement process by developing a strong and unified legal framework.
Mr Turnquest added that the public procurement legislation is rapidly approaching completion, resulting in the need to raise awareness in Grand Bahama. A pilot test of the E-PSR will be launched in January 2019.
“We want to make sure that potential Grand Bahamian suppliers are equipped with the tools to fully and comfortably participate in this test bid and, more broadly, public procurement in the future,” said Mr Turnquest.
“The test bid will give suppliers an opportunity to ensure that they understand how the E-PSR operates before we implement the mandatory use of the E-PSR for all public procurement. We have completed drafting the proposed Public Procurement Act, which will be presented to Parliament very shortly.”
The deputy prime minister said the proposed legislation will:
• Establish a Department of Public Procurement that will enhance transparency and value for money within the procurement process by providing oversight and accountability.
• Modernise and align procurement practices with international best practices.
• Establish a public procurement board and review tribunal.
• Establish a fully transparent bidding process, where bids and bid winners are posted on line.
• Define in law the suite of procurement methods, including competitive bidding, selective bidding, restrictive bidding and limited bidding.
“It represents a revised national framework for all public procurement. Under this new framework, we’ve committed to reserve a portion of national procurement budgets for small businesses, which will benefit entrepreneurs in Freeport and other Family Islands,” added Mr Turnquest.
“The Public Procurement Act will oversee the E-Procurement and Supplier Registry system, and all national procurement will be executed through the online procurement and supplier registry system in the near future.”
Mr Turnquest stressed that registration will be mandatory for any business seeking to obtain a contract with the Government. The Independent Procurement Review Tribunal will provide recourse for all persons who feel there has been an injustice in any tender process.