By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest yesterday defended the Minnis administration’s 2019/2020 Budget against the Official Opposition’s critiques.
In an interview with The Tribune, Mr Turnquest directly responded to Progressive Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper’s insinuation that the government believes it can collect $500m in the last two months of the fiscal year.
Mr Turnquest called this notion “ridiculous” and a “silly suggestion”, adding Mr Cooper “knows better”.
Mr Turnquest also responded to PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis’ concerns regarding the functionality of the E-Procurement and Supplier Registry System — a programme Mr Turnquest promoted during Wednesday’s Budget communication as being a tool to boost transparency.
On Wednesday, Mr Davis told The Tribune this system is something the last PLP administration considered, but felt many small vendors required training in computer literacy. Mr Davis therefore underscored the importance of phasing in such steps before implementing the system.
During his communication, Mr Turnquest noted in the first ten months of the fiscal year, aggregate revenue increased by $272.6m to $1.9bn. “All told, we project that the remaining two months of the fiscal year will perform positively,” he said. “For the fiscal year as a whole, revenue is estimated to come in at about $2.4bn, some $238m or 9.0 percent lower than what was budgeted at the start of the fiscal year.”
During the PLP’s press conference immediately following Mr Turnquest’s presentation, Mr Cooper said: “In the face of the minister’s transparency soap box, we question how the minister will collect an average of $250m per month in the last two months when it only received an average of $190m over the first ten months.”
When asked about this yesterday, Mr Turnquest said: “In the mid-year budget statement, I foreshadowed that we were going to be short of our projected total revenue as a result of concessions in the two industries that I mentioned as well as some other global facts that slowed down some things. We do not anticipate that we’re going to collect the full amount of that deficit in the next two months. That is ridiculous.
“And it’s really—Mr Cooper knows better. What we are saying though is that we project that we will have a steady stream or a consistent stream of revenue, given regard to the last six months or since January in particular, and consistent with previous years. So we don’t anticipate any change in the rate of collections this last two months as compared to last year. So we do not anticipate to fill the hole. That’s impossible. It’s a silly suggestion to even make.”
During the communication, Mr Turnquest said the Public Procurement Bill, 2019, provides the legislative framework for electronic government procurement.
“Once this component is complete, all national procurement will be executed through the E-Procurement and Supplier Registry System,” he said then.
“Thus, the procurement process will not only be more efficient, but more transparent, as every step of the process will be done in the open. All jobs will be advertised publicly, and every contract awarded will be published online and in the newspaper.”
Regarding this system, Mr Davis told The Tribune: “First of all, I want to see what they truly mean by that. But quite frankly we have to appreciate that… a lot of our vendors are still needing to appreciate and understand how to deal with online issues.
“We were considering e-procurement. But we appreciated very quickly that a lot of our small vendors whom we wanted to engage were deficient in computer and the e-world, as it were. So we had embarked upon an exercise to try to start training them one by one and then bringing them on to it.
In response to this, Mr Turnquest yesterday said: “We’re still engaged in the registration process and I think that - I can’t remember the number of vendors that have been registered, but there have been several sessions to educate the suppliers on the use of the system and how to get registered.”