By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG) has given recommendations to the government on amendments to public procurement legislation.
Matt Aubry, ORG’s executive director, told Tribune Business that the “foremost and current” piece of legislation for completion by the Philip Davis, KC, government is the amendment to the Public Procurement Act, because it is something that needed to be made “fair and transparent”.
He said: “The bill actually has some interesting elements in it. They’ve added on more specificity so that owners of Family Island businesses and women-owned businesses and youth-owned businesses can now get a special weight so that they can get greater advantage and opportunity. We recommended that they include folks with disabilities as well.
“But the current bill also removes the specific review, appeal commission and tries to blend it in with the tax appeal commission. The reality is that the Procurement Review Commission is going to be critical to build trust and ensure that when contracts are not awarded that there’s a fair space for people to understand why something wasn’t awarded, as well as an opportunity to review the determinants of it and that effective procurement legislation is key. So that’s one area that we put recommendations. We hope that changes.”
ORG will also spend time working on benchmarking the Public Disclosure Act as well.
Mr Aubry said: “That’s key to really start to build out again that concept of public trust and make it easier for the leaders and for the elected officials to put out their information, but also build in more independence so that there’s greater monitoring and ensuring that things like conflict of interest, which, of course, can be a problem when we only have a population of 400,000, are appropriately looked at.”
The Davis administration in its Blueprint for Change outlined legislation for an ombudsman, anti-corruption legislation and reviewing and updating the Fiscal Responsibility Act, but nothing on these matters has come to the floor of Parliament.
The Attorney General, Ryan Pinder, in his June update on the legislative agenda for the government for this 2022/2023 fiscal year, mentioned nothing about anti-corruption or fiscal responsibility legislation.
Mr Aubry, still hopeful for ORG’s interventions, said: “I think that there’s also a number of other opportunities that are going to be coming up, things like campaign finance and ensuring that whatever comes out of the FTX issue that there are legislative and policy changes that ensures that the burgeoning technology industries can continue to be supportive, but there’s also appropriate levels of regulation.”
He added: “Obviously, pushing for things like a land use plan, which will open the door and ensure environmental responsibility, but also give clarity for all those people who are waiting to be able to access land that they put bids in and ensuring how we can use our land appropriately.
“Then I think finally, what we want to look at is the full enactment of freedom of information. That to us is a real key priority and it’s one that is long since due, there’s been progress made and now we need to bring that to bear.”
In February, the Freedom of Information Unit, talked about being able to have ten agencies that received and can respond to a Freedom of Information request by the Bahamian people. “I know there’s been a little a few delays but I think if that becomes a key priority for policy, it will achieve something that a lot of the public has been looking for,” Mr Aubry said.
There also a need to revisit the national development plan. There is a draft in place and a structure by which the government can build upon, but needs to be updated to “reflect current circumstances”.