Gov’t must have no-objection on state contracts – Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar says that the government will take the necessary steps towards the setting up of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) as early as tomorrow as long as Cabinet is allowed to retain its no-objection powers as it relates to tendering of state contracts.

This particular position is nothing new as Adviser to the President on Governance, Gail Teixeira has said as much, but this is the first time that Ramotar himself has made such a pronouncement on the matter.

His statements came yesterday during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C’s) “Return to Democracy” rally, held to commemorate 21 straight years of controlling the reins of government.

The President embraces some of his supporters after the Rally
The President embraces some of his supporters after the Rally

Hundreds turned out to the event, held at the Lusignan Market Tarmac, where several high- ranking PPP/C members, including its General Secretary Clement Rohee, who also plays the role Home Affairs Minister, addressed the crowd.

Ramotar yesterday told the party’s supporters that Guyana’s Cabinet is the only one in the Caribbean which does not have the power to award contracts. As things stand, Cabinet has the authority to review contracts which include amounts totalling $15 million and above, and object to the awarding of such a contract if it is determined that the procuring entity failed to comply with applicable  procedures.

Contracts involving such large sums of money can only be awarded if Cabinet indicates that it has no objection

However, according to Article 54 of the Procurement Act, once the PPC is commissioned, Cabinet’s no-objection powers will be phased out over time so as to decentralize the procurement process. This is what the government has an issue with, and it is why they have refused to move any further with the setting up of the commission recently.

But if the opposition is willing to allow Cabinet to retain its no-objection, Ramotar says his government will be willing to cooperate.

“We are willing to do it tomorrow if they put back the no-objection in the bill,” said Ramotar, who further stated that if the government is to be held accountable for contracts tendered to contractors, Cabinet needs to be able to retain its no-objection powers. The insistence on the retention of the no-objection is a marked change from the PPP/C’s original stance which critics say is evidence that there was no good-faith intention towards a PPC.

Each of last evening’s speakers also spoke at length about the development which they say has been ushered in since the PPP/C won the general elections in 1992.

Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall credits the PPP/C government for championing gender equality.

In a short address, Nandlall said that the PPP/C has continued to work towards ensuring that women in Guyana have equal access to education, jobs, and he added that the government has worked towards ensuring that women play a fundamental role in the government.

It was the PPP/C which gave Guyana its first female president, Nandlall said, and he added that the first Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, was also installed by the party. Nandlall also noted that Justice Desiree Bernard, the first female Caribbean Court of Justice Judge, was appointed by the PPP/C to the office of Chief Justice (in 1996) and to the post of Chancellor in 2005.

Manickchand, during her address, alluded to the improvements in housing, education and the offering of constitutional freedoms which she says came as a result of the work the PPP/C has been doing. She however, lamented the opposition parties, who she labeled as “bad news.”

“You cannot trust the opposition parties, you cannot trust their members,” Manickchand told the party’s supporters. She recalled the Lusignan “massacre” which occurred in 2008 and the recent trial of those charged with committing the acts which took 1l lives and left many injured.

Manickchand said that Alliance for Change (AFC) Chairman Nigel Hughes represented the accused, and he failed to point out to the judge that the jury foreman was known to him. By failing to make the disclosure, she said, he cheated the victims of the massacre out of justice. “I say to you, don’t trust them,” she reiterated.

Ramotar also directly criticized the opposition parties; accusing them of trying to “beat down” big projects being pursued by government. He made mention of the Cheddi
Jagan International Airport, Timehri expansion project, the Marriott Guyana Project and the Amaila Project, and said that these ventures have the propensity to improve the lives of Guyanese.

Ramotar said that the Guyana International Conference Centre at Liliendaal is another example of progress, and he said that the Centre does not have the requisite rooms to accommodate the number of requests that come in. The President also said that there are not enough hotel rooms in Guyana to accommodate the travellers who come to Guyana to attend the various functions at the ICC.

It is for this reason, Ramotar said, that the Marriott is needed.

But the opposition parties, he said, are seeking to keep Guyanese in poverty by working against these projects. According to Ramotar, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the AFC have sought to disrupt these projects because they wish to keep Guyanese people in poverty so as to enhance their opportunities to chastise the government.

The opposition’s endeavours, Ramotar said, are being aided by the “main newspapers” who he says does not like the PPP/C because the party is trying to elevate the status of Guyana’s poor. Similar sentiments were expressed by former President Bharrat Jagdeo when he spoke.

According to the former president, Stabroek News and Kaieteur News continue to spread lies about the PPP/C and the major projects which the government is pursuing. He told the people that they believe these lies because they are uninformed, and charged them to get familiar with the truth.

He said that Christopher Ram, Ramon Gaskin and APNU MP Carl Greenidge, are the sources of the lies, and slammed Greenidge in particular for his criticisms of government.

Jagdeo said that Greenidge should be the last person criticizing the initiatives of the government, particularly since he was “the worst Finance Minister in the world.” Jagdeo also urged those who might have become disillusioned with the party to not lose hope, because of a few potholes, bad roads and unkempt drains, but instead to pay attention to the overall development which the country has seen under the PPP/C.

Rohee said that their 21 years in power is a testament to the fact that the people of Guyana are confident in the PPP/C’s leadership. Rohee said the opposition parties, who “always believe that all we are good for is to cut grass, cut cane and fish,” have been proven wrong because it has proved that it has the capacity to run the country.

In each of their addresses, Rohee, Ramotar and Jagdeo all charged their supporters in attendance to be relentless in rallying additional supporters for the party. “Every single one of you have to ensure that you play your part. You have to ensure that your name is on the list. You have to ensure that your cousin’s name is on the list, that your neighbour’s name is on the list,” Ramotar told the party’s supporters.

He urged them not to wait on the party’s leadership or activists to do the work, but to do the work themselves. They were urged to go from door to door in the effort to rally support. Addressing rumours that the party’s mobilization might be preparation for an imminent election, Rohee said that the party does not wait until an election season to mobilize, rather it is always in preparation mode.

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