Public procurement regulator Moonilal Lalchan said Attorney General Reginald Armor had asked the Office of Public Procurement Regulation (OPR) to put in place a timetable for the realistic proclamation of the law on public procurement and disposal of assets public.
The OPR and AG Armor met last Tuesday.
Lalchan told members of the Transparency Institute in a Zoom meeting on Thursday evening that the OPR board will meet next Wednesday to formalize the timeline.
And he’s optimistic it can be done in a reasonably short time.
“In September 2019, we would have written to the Minister of Finance telling him which part of the legislation should be further enacted even if we had not passed the regulation. The by-law is now adopted. The Attorney General directed the office at Tuesday’s meeting to prepare a proposed timeline for full implementation, including some of the concerns raised by the Chief Justice,” he said.
Lalchan said the OPR’s proposals would address the concerns raised by the Chief Justice “which we believe are not insurmountable and we can address them.”
Four weeks ago, in a statement to parliament, Armor said more consultation needed to take place before the law could be enacted based on a communication he received from the Office of Procurement Regulation ( OPR) and the judiciary.
In the case of the OPR, he said they had communicated that “there is significant work to be undertaken to establish the required system and processes”.
In the case of the judiciary, they wrote a 29-page letter to Armor focusing on their administrative capacity, in which he said he was generally unprepared at this time with resources.
Lalchan explained that since the office was established, they have faced delays in getting things done in a timely manner.
1. He said that since September 2019, the OPR would have written to public agencies to complete their readiness assessment for the full proclamation of the law. However, almost four years later, only 72 public bodies out of 415 large public bodies have done so.
2. Also from 2019, public bodies and ministries were advised that a public procurement officer should be appointed as the government moved to implement the public procurement law. Lalchan said that to date, this “critical” appointment has not yet been completed. “To date, we have only received responses from 123 agencies so far,” he said. He noted that this is the appointed procurement officer with whom the OPR would last. “So we would have sent reminders to appointed procurement officers, accountants, permanent secretaries, constantly reminding us that you need this information to ensure that when we set up our procurement custodian, we have a contractor “, did he declare. . In the absence of the procurement officer, the OPR used public bulletins. “We will make it very clear to the attorney general that this needs to be done urgently and should have been done by now,” he said.
3. He said that there are also regulations, Section 57 A of the Act, which deals with the disposal of immovable property which must be submitted for a negative resolution to Parliament by the Minister of Finance.
“It is not over. So that in itself would be another reason why it would be a delay in terms of disposal of immovable property that settlements have to be made by the minister,” he said.
Ready for the flood of requests
He noted that one area of concern is the office’s willingness to address some of the complaints and challenges.
He said that ten magistrates of the judiciary had provided training to the OPR “so that we, as a committee, constituted members of the board of directors and the management, can deal with these dispute procedures”.
“In addition, we have two judges from the Caribbean Court of Justice who have worked with us. I would therefore say that we are well prepared to take advantage of this and decide on the questions which will be submitted to the Bureau in the near future. So there is no question that the office is not prepared,” he said.
He noted that unless the law is enacted and the OPR becomes operational, then the full extent of what public sector procurement will look like is pure speculation.
“It is only speculation as to the flood of requests that will come. Also, when you look at them, there are only three areas. This is not all that is submitted to the office for decision.
“These three areas are: when a supplier/contractor believes there has been a violation of law, and they are likely to suffer a loss in terms of prequalification, prequalification and solicitation even before award of a contract, the waiting period and it is a defined period of between ten and 15 days and the third is after a contract is awarded there are seven days to file a complaint on which the OPR will consider.
“When he arrives in front of the office, that gives us 20 days to complete the entire hearing and decide the case. We don’t know if the review board that was included in an amendment is operationalized. But if the review board is not fully constituted, the question is where does it go, if it goes directly to the courts,” he said.
At a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, said there would be a delay in the proclamation of the Public Procurement Act, but he is eager to get it proclaimed.
“What has happened is that every time we try to proclaim these pieces of legislation, I have to say that interested parties and customers will point out the pitfalls. And we come back to parliament and adjust it. But there still seems to be a problem because it is a very far-reaching bill, which could have serious implications for government operations,” he said.
“It would be irresponsible of me and the government to ignore what has been identified by the Chief Justice and, of course, what is also considered by the Office of the Regulator, despite our desire to do so. get it proclaimed so we can once and for all, put this on the books,” he said.