By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
FINANCIAL Secretary Simon Wilson says the government has yet to disclose contract awards as the Public Procurement Act mandates because no chief procurement officer has been appointed.
The law, which was passed last year, says a notice of a contract award must be published within 60 days of being made. The notice must indicate the title of the bid, the name of the procuring entity, the selection method used, the name and address of the awarded bidder and the procurement contract price. Details about contract awards have not been systematically publicised since the law came into force last September.
Mr Wilson, during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, suggested reporting has not taken place because a key role has yet to be filled.
He said: “The Act speaks to the officer reporting. Has that officer been appointed? Was that officer reporting September 1? Has that position been created in the public service? That’s the challenge that we have with the Act.
“The Act speaks to a chief procurement officer. If you understand the public service and how it operates, we have to create a post, we have to go to the Public Service Commission, we have to put in a salary scale, these things can’t happen overnight. That’s the challenge. You can put all these fancy provisions in and you could give people these responsibilities. It didn’t say the financial secretary should report you know, it said the chief procurement officer.
“I am not the chief procurement officer so I cannot report. If I want to be true to the legislation, it should be the chief procurement officer. This is one of the amendments we want to make because really, when you put in legislation to create a framework, you have to make sure all other things are done properly.”
Section 61 of the law says procuring entities must publish award notices within 60 days. Section 10 of the Act, on the other hand, describes the functions of the chief procurement officer. That officer must report periodically to the financial secretary about “procurement activities of procuring entities, statutory bodies and government business enterprises.” The chief procurement officer must also prepare an annual report on procurement and send that report to the financial secretary.
The Public Procurement Act was drafted partly in response to local and international criticism of procurement activities in The Bahamas, with some saying the system lacks transparency and accountability. It was passed under the Minnis administration.
Mr Wilson, echoing Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis, said the government will make changes to the Procurement Act.
“The Public Procurement Act was drafted over ten years ago,” he said.
“It’s a very complex piece of legislation so governments had moved very slow to implement it because of the complexity of the Public Procurement Act. I was a young economist when the Act was drafted.
“The Act was put in place in absence of the things that make it work, the manual, the training, the regulations. It’s not a very easy Act; it’s a non-trivial piece of legislation.
“The government’s position is that the Act needs to be revised, the regulations need to be put in place to make it functional.
“The framework is excellent, but when you start looking at the actual clauses in the Act you realise that it is impractical. Any procurement under the Procurement Act has to be out for 30 days. Imagine this. You want to buy disinfectant spray, which is a homogenous good, Lysol…you get three quotes, you have to hold those quotes for 30 days before you can actually make the purchase, that’s a very impractical approach to doing anything.
“Then in addition, part of the Act is this online portal. The online portal was purchased by the government about 12 years ago. It’s old, it’s cumbersome, it’s very frustrating, it doesn’t do the segregation, so you have merchants who complain that I’m interested in products over $1m, I get these hits, I’m checking the hits and it’s for three tyres, it’s a waste of my time and people feel disconnected from governance because they say I’m not getting the real information because they say the portal itself is ineffective. So, in procurement we have some changes planned, legislation is going to be upgraded and modernised.”
In December 2021, Free National Movement leader Michael Pintard accused the Davis administration of breaching the reporting requirements of the Public Procurement Act.
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