Government yesterday tabled a new Bill intended to retain Cabinet’s role in granting no-objections to procurement following the creation of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) but the Opposition is not likely to offer its support.
Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh brought the Bill –the Procurement (Amendment) Bill 2013 – on a supplementary Order Paper. The Bill seeks to amend Section 54 of the 2003 Procurement Act by deleting subsection 6. This subsection had removed the requirement for Cabinet to have a role in the procurement process after the PPC comes into being.
Yesterday’s proposed amendment removes that subsection, thus retaining Cabinet’s role to grant no objections.
A key figure in the Government said yesterday that it intends to set up the PPC only after this amendment is approved by the National Assembly.
Some months ago, PPP/C parliamentary whip Gail Teixeira said that an amendment in 2003 to the 2003 Procurement Bill phasing out the role of Cabinet had not been approved by the then government. Teixeira made the surprise revelation to this newspaper when asked to defend the contradiction between the government’s position in 2003 and its recent announcement – 10 years after the Act had been signed into law – that it wanted to preserve a role for Cabinet in public procurement.
Teixeira told this newspaper that the Bill that was written originally came to the Parliament after consultation with the World Bank, IMF and other development partners. She said that during the debate there was a sidebar meeting with then Speaker of the House Ralph Ramkarran, Winston Murray of the PNCR and then Attorney General, the late Doodnauth Singh.
“Government had no choice but to proceed with the Bill. That amendment was not approved either by Cabinet or by the President,” Teixeira said. She said that the original contents of the Bill were negotiated and the changes that came after were not approved. Teixeira’s version of events had been rebuffed by Ramkarran.
The subsection 6 of clause 54 says: “Cabinet’s involvement under this section shall cease upon the constitution of the Public Procurement Commission.”
In July this year, the Minister of Finance defended Government’s position, stating that Cabinet’s role must be preserved in the procurement process.
“The Government’s position on this matter is quite simple, that you cannot exclude the executive from any participation in a process that you may want to turn around and hold the Executive responsible for,” he said.