PAC to look at stalled procurement commission when house reconvenes

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly will decide how to move forward on the Public Procurement Commis-sion (PPC) when Parliament reconvenes next month, PAC Chairman Carl Greenidge says.

The PPP/C government is the only party yet to submit its nominees and this is holding up the process of setting up the PPC which has to be approved by the House.

Carl Greenidge
Carl Greenidge

The main opposition APNU and the AFC will have to decide how to proceed in the light of the government’s insistence on certain conditions, Greenidge said. He said nothing has been happening and when Parliament reconvenes, the PAC has to decide what it will do about the nominees.

Meantime, AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan said that there is nothing the PAC can do to make the government name its nominees. However, the AFC will continue to hitch its support for anti-money laundering legislation to the establishment and operationalising of the PPC.

Ramjattan blasted the ruling party for its stance on the PPC describing it as hypocritical. “It is just very unprincipled not to name their nominees,” he added. He also noted that the legislation has an anti-corruption clause so the establishment of the PPC would be like killing two birds with one stone.

Meantime, in relation to whether the selection of a new developer for the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project should hinge on the establishment of the PPC, Greenidge said the entire issue has become larger than one of procurement and the entire project has to be revisited. “It’s been clear that the whole process needs to be re-examined,” he said.

The overall arrangement by which government makes it decisions has to examined, he asserted.

In May, amid concerns about stalled anti-money laundering laws, the private sector urged the government and the opposition to respect the “national interest” and convene an extra-parliamentary meeting to break the deadlock over the PPC and other public oversight bodies. The opposition has signalled that it is open to such a meeting but Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira stated that the government wanted an amendment to the Procurement Act to preserve the role of Cabinet in state contracts.

Former Auditor General of Guyana Anand Goolsarran has said that if the government gets its way and Cabinet retains a permanent role in the procurement process, it could undermine the PPC when it is finally set up.

 Khemraj Ramjattan
Khemraj Ramjattan

Government’s insistence on Cabinet retaining a no-objection role in public procurement even with the constituted PPC is a departure from its position in 2003 during the debate on the Procurement Bill 2003, when it said Cabinet’s role would “fade away” once the commission fructifies. Government’s insistence on Cabinet’s role in the process has become a major sticking point for the establishment of the PPC although Goolsarran, who is the President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc, does not believe that the administration has made a compelling case for the hold up.

Goolsarran had told Stabroek News that he found it strange that Teixeira would say government had not approved the amendment that she said slipped into the Procurement Bill in 2003.

Teixeira had told this newspaper that in the midst of the debate, there was a sidebar with the Speaker Ralph Ramkarran, Winston Murray of the PNCR and then Attorney General Doodnauth Singh, who together came up with an amendment which said Cabinet will eventually no longer have a role in procurement.

Teixeira said this was done without the knowledge and approval of Cabinet at the time. But Ramkarran subsequently rejected Teixeira’s statements about his involvement in the amendment’s inclusion in the Procurement Bill 2003 and called her statements, a departure from the truth.

Teixeira has declined to comment on Ramkarran’s statement.

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