Procurement commission begins work

Carol Corbin

The newly formed Public Procurement Commission (PPC) has begun operating and wants the public, especially bidders, to acquaint themselves with the law and the procedural requirements of the procurement process.

Chairwoman of the PPC Carol Corbin told Stabroek News in an interview that the procurement oversight body promises a strict transparent system that ensures accountability in every area the Commission is responsible for

Carol Corbin
Carol Corbin

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“We are an oversight body and would be strictly monitoring the procurement process ensuring that established procedures are in accordance with the country’s Procurement Act,” Corbin said.

More than 13 years after Guyana’s Constitution was amended to provide for the PPC and after much haggling between the PPP/Civic, when it was in government and the current APNU+AFC, the oversight body was established last month.

Former labour minister Nanda Kishore Gopaul is the PPC’s vice-chairman and other three members are Attorney Emily Dodson, Accountant Sukrishnalall Pasha and Educator Ivor English.

When they were sworn in, President David Granger had urged the PPC members to uphold the tenets of the Constitution that require them to be independent, impartial and fair in the execution of their duties.

Article 212X (1) of the Constitution states “The Public Procurement Commission shall consist of five members who shall have expertise and experience in procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters.”

Among the PPC’s key functions, according to the  Procurement Act are to: “Monitor and review the functioning of all procurement systems to ensure that they are in accordance with law and such policy guidelines as may be determined by the National Assembly; promote awareness of the rules, procedures and special requirements of the procurement process among suppliers, constructors and public bodies; safeguard the national interest in public procurement matters, having due regard to any international obligations; monitor the performance of procurement bodies with respect to adherence to regulations and efficiency in procuring goods and services and execution of works; approve of procedures for public procurement, disseminate rules and procedures for public procurement and recommend modifications thereto to the public procurement entities.”

It will also “monitor and review all legislation, policies and measures for compliance with the objects and matters under its purview and report the need for any legislation to the National Assembly; monitor and review the procurement procedures of the ministerial, regional, and national procurement entities as well as those of project execution units; investigate complaints from suppliers, contractors and public entities and propose remedial action; investigate cases of irregularity and mismanagement, and propose remedial action; initiate investigations to facilitate the effective functioning of public procurement systems.”

The PPC can also enlist the aid of experts to assist with specialist advice as needed and will also liaise with and refer matters to the police and the Auditor General; and do all other acts and things as may be necessary to facilitate the efficient discharge of the functions of the Commission.

The new PPC chairwoman, who is a project management professional, explained that even though the commission has begun working, there are still administrative issues to be finalized, among which are the securing of its own building and hiring of administrative and other staff. “We are still looking around for an office and then there are vacancies that would have to be filled so our staffing is not yet complete. We have the members of the commission but there are three positions in the secretariat that have to be approved by the Parliament… Those we hope will be approved soon and we will at least have a skeleton staff that we can use until everything else falls into place,” Corbin pointed out.

“We have started meeting with agencies that we will be working with and have already met the Auditor General and the Tender Board [National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB)] people… We are hoping, at the least, that by the beginning of January everything would be formalized but we will continue to build on what we have,” she added.

Key among the commission’s  first tasks would be the hosting of training programmes for bidders and agencies so that they are familiar with what is required of them from the start to award of a tender.

“It is part of our job and we have to let persons understand the process they are entering into; you know, the preparing of documents, understanding all the procedures, administrative and technical …,” she asserted.

 

No major changes

Corbin said there will be no major changes in the procurement process, except for the PPC’s role. Bidders will still first see varying projects and services being advertised by procuring entities, inviting them to tender. They will, according to specificity, pick up or purchase their bidding documents and submit those fulfilling requirements to NPTAB.

NPTAB will publicly open them on days stated after which they will go for evaluation to one of NPTAB’s selected evaluation groups. After the evaluation process is complete, a recommendation of a company will be made to the PPC and if given the approval will be then sent to the procuring entity so that they can notify both contract awardee and those bidders whose bid were not found not responsive.

Since Cabinet’s no-objection role is no longer in effect, Corbin said that NPTAB would be responsible for notifying the public.

NPTAB Chairman Berkley Wickham told Stabroek News that his agency has not yet worked out how the awards will be made public but since the agency is using the Ministry of Finance’s website, as plans for the building of its own are finalized, more than likely it would do so through that medium or a press statement.

Wickham said that currently the minutes of the tender openings are uploaded to a link on the MoF’s website and can be found there.

However, when this newspaper checked yesterday minutes currently on the site are as at October 25, 2016 while contracts awarded are at May 17, 2016.

Wickham said that he too wants to see the PPC, “which is chartered for by law but was not implemented until now, work the way that it should as set out by the Procurement Act,” making for a transparent and accountable procurement system. He said bidders should not therefore have trepidations about the PPC as the body’s existence is to make the procuring process transparent.

As it pertains to protesting a bid there is not much change expected in this area either, except now the PPC will be

supervising the Bid Protest Committee’s (BPC) work.

The NPTAB Chairman is also calling on bidders to read their documents and familiarize themselves with the Procurement Act before protesting the award of a contract.

“We advise people to read the procedures before they make objections to bids and to follow the guidelines and timeframes set out in the law before coming to us. The law would state that after receiving notice of the contract award and a bidder feels aggrieved, they have to go to the Procurement Agency first but they would come to us to complain.

We don’t mind assisting them and we guide them as to what are the correct procedures,” Wickham said.

“I must point out that majority of the persons that come to us aggrieved about a bid, if they go to the procuring entity and they are shown where they went wrong or what they failed to do, they leave satisfied with the answers given. It is why we have been on the procuring entities cases too to follow the law and notify the people… The law states both awardee and those with unresponsive bids. They have to follow the law,” he added.

For Corbin, these are elements that her commission will be working rigidly to ensure are complied with.

She said too that persons who are not satisfied with the procuring entity’s explanation of why they would have lost a bid will then notify the BPC which also falls under the purview of the PPC. However, since the BPC already was deliberating over two cases before the PPC’s establishment, Corbin said, those will be completed and new protests will then see the PPC’s oversight.

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