By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Free National Movement intends to take legal action against the Davis administration to initiate a judicial review targeting the government’s failure to follow the Public Procurement Act.
FNM Leader Michael Pintard made the revelation to The Tribune yesterday as he pushed back against what he described as the government’s “flimsy” excuses for not abiding by the law.
Plans to take the legal route came after the FNM exhausted several avenues, including a written communication to the prime minister and an attempt to use provisions in the Freedom of Information Act.
However, the latter option yielded no results, as the FOIA’s relevant provisions have yet to be enforced.
The situation was similar when the opposition attempted to use the powers of the Public Accounts Committee, with Mr Pintard telling The Tribune there was some concern that the committee had not received the responses that it expected certain agencies to provide.
He spoke to this newspaper after the official opposition tabled questions to the government in the House of Assembly, several of them targeting the Procurement Act.
“We, just in the House of Assembly tabled a number of questions, a number of them surrounding the identical issue, the violation of the Public Procurement Act and we have asked questions in the House of Assembly during the debate,” Mr Pintard said during an interview at his office on Parliament Street.
“We’ve spoken to members of the media. I have written to the prime minister and we have utilised the Public Accounts Committee and we have also sought to go through the Freedom of Information Act, but the provisions that empower those who have responsibility for the Freedom of Information Act, those provisions are not yet enforced and so that has not been helpful to us.”
He continued: “We have gone through every avenue. I have spoken with two attorneys. We have now received the quote of the retainer for one of those attorneys.
“We are looking now to take legal action with respect to this administration and initiate a judicial review so we could determine through law exactly why the government is so recalcitrant and refuses to follow.”
The Davis administration has said the Public Procurement Act, which was made law under the Minnis administration, is unworkable.
Last month, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said the Davis administration planned to rewrite the Public Procurement Act as opposed to amending portions of it to allow for greater transparency and ease of administration.
At the time Mr Pinder 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 entirely in dealing with the bill.
Mr Pintard rejected these assertions yesterday, saying: “I just think there is a culture that is endemic in the system and I also think that different agencies and their heads take a cue from the executive and the executive have shown a blatant disregard for the law.
“They have used flimsy excuses such as they have intention of amending the law and therefore until they have done so they refuse to comply.
“They claim that it’s unworkable and the provisions are onerous, which is untrue because in the last administration obviously elements of that law were still in fact used to report, including in cases where people wish to single source a contractor to do work and you want to go through a no-bid process.
“There are provisions that are available for you to act and if there is a need to take some action as in an emergency, the law as it exists was utilised during COVID.
“So, the excuses they have given have been flimsy.
“I just think that the arrangements that they have entered into that they are not comfortable with the public knowing what those arrangements are and I don’t think they feel any obligation to follow the law.
“They have a pathway that they have determined to follow and that’s what they are doing.”
The intended legal action will also seek to make public the settlements the government has reached with people who sued the state for various reasons.
In recent months the government settled a lawsuit with Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander and Deputy Commissioner Leamond Deleveaux.
The men filed suits against the government when they were deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner of police, respectively, after the Minnis administration forced them to take vacation leave and later seconded them to minor posts upon their return to active duty.
Details of the settlements have not been made public.
“There will more than likely be other elements that we will look at,” Mr Pintard said yesterday. “One particular decision that they have made that has also caused us some concern and we believe it ought to be challenged in court and that is keeping secret the settlements that they have entered into, some of which were in court. Some we understand the attorneys for those persons were signalling that they are going to court. So, again what motivated their decisions to award what they did and what was the amount?
“Was the amount justified given what the grievance was that the persons had?”
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.