By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Ryan Pinder has revealed the Davis administration’s plan to rewrite the Public Procurement Act as opposed to amending portions of it to allow for greater transparency and ease of administration.
Mr Pinder yesterday told reporters the legislation in its current format had several “material issues” that restricted the government’s ability to govern effectively.
Because of this, Mr Pinder said, officials decided to change its approach in dealing with the bill entirely.
“The public procurement bill, initially, we looked to amend certain aspects of that that we found troublesome,” he said during the Office of the Prime Minister’s press briefing.
“But once we were looking at it in more depth, we figured a full rewrite of that legislation was necessary in order to provide more transparency, better ease of administration and ability to govern effectively on that bill and ability to be able to govern with immediate priority and instances that require it.
“A lot of times the portal didn’t function appropriately and the mechanisms that were in place restricts your government from reacting immediately in times of exigency that you would recall and know that we’re still in a pandemic, we still have certain exigencies with respect to health reform, and our health care and the necessity to react quickly.”
The law, which was passed under the Minnis administration last year, requires the government to publish details of approved contracts and procurement activities within 60 days of the award of the contract.
However, since assuming office, the Davis administration has yet to comply with the reporting requirements of the law, often facing criticism from the opposition over the issue.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis responded to criticisms over his administration’s lack of compliance with the law, saying officials found the law not “workable.” At the time, Mr Davis also said there would be an amendment to the law.
Providing more details on those issues, Mr Pinder said the current regime was restrictive and did not allow the government to effectively respond to “real life situations.
“The first one was the portal that was set up was really nonfunctional, I would say, when it came to certain things. It just didn’t operate properly to allow the government to respond, but that’s a mechanical issue,” he said.
“On the legislative front, the requirement to go to procurement, especially in instances of exigency, so when a government has to react in real time to situations, it really hurt the ability for a government to do that to react to concerns of its citizens.
“So, let’s use healthcare for an example. We know we are in a pandemic and we know the pandemic has really overloaded our health infrastructure and we see it today, when you’re seeing difficulties with elective surgeries.
“That is, as a result of the pressure been put on our health infrastructure, we would want to react real time, if we had to bring in ten new beds, if we had to bring in immediate X ray machine we had to do some sort of infrastructural modifications to our hospital, we’re unable to react in real time to address those health needs of our citizens because in every instance, you have to go up through a portal, has to go to go out to the public, has to come back, has to be evaluated and by then you’ve lost lives and that is not what governments do.”
He also said: “Governments do not govern to lose lives, governments do not govern to put their citizens in a position because of some mechanical framework that, frankly, just doesn’t work for a small island country and so those are really important examples and instances in which an overhaul of the procurement regime is required.
“Now, we’re not looking to avoid transparency and we’re not looking to avoid good governance. But we’re looking to have transparency and good governance in a regime for a small island nation, to be able to react to exert exigencies to our citizens and to provide the governance necessary that they elected us to do and so those are the troubling aspects of it.”
The Public Procurement Act was partly a response to long-term criticisms of the country’s procurement processes.
It is intended to shine the light of transparency and accountability across the award of all public sector contracts, thus improving taxpayer value for money and reducing fraud, wastage, and corruption.
It is also supposed to improve procurement efficiency by having all bids and contract awards handled through a centralised e-procurement supplier registry, with all companies interested in bidding registering with this portal.