The Public Procurement Commission (PPC) has refuted reports that any individual member led the recently concluded investigation of the procurement of emergency drugs by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
“The commission works in a collaborative manner, which affords all members equal opportunity to participate fully in its work…,” the PPC said in a letter to the editor that was published in Tuesday’s Stabroek News, while adding that this is exactly what transpired in the recently concluded investigation.
Stabroek News had reported that the report on the investigation was submitted to Parliament without the input of Sukrishnalall Pasha, the member who had led the investigative work.
Sources had said that the PPC scrambled to formulate rules barring its commissioners from speaking publicly and Pasha, who did not sign the final report, had been threatened about breaching confidentiality clauses if he released a minority report on the investigation.
When contacted, Pasha did not confirm or deny the reports but had told Stabroek News that the PPC has recently formulated procedures and rules barring commissioners from speaking to the press and that all questions should be directed to Chairman of the body, Carol Corbin.
He informed that he has since submitted a statement on the matter to Corbin and she would be the one to discuss any issue henceforth.
In its letter, the PPC said that while Article 212 AA (3) of the Constitution gives the commission the powers to delegate duties to any one or more members to carry out a function, this was not the case for the investigation.
“The five commissioners worked collectively throughout the process of the investigation and were all fully aware at all times of the contents of the final report, to which they all contributed and were all also afforded the opportunity to sign,” it added.
The letter further explained that the commission comprises five commissioners “who each took an oath of confidentiality in respect of the conduct of the GPHC investigations and, as such, it would be inappropriate and in breach of that oath for any commissioner to discuss, at this time, the specific details of the findings and recommendations relating to the investigation.”
According to the letter, during deliberations over the course of the work by all commissioners, there was no acrimony but mature debates.
“The atmosphere of deliberations during the work of the commission has been one of mutual respect and courtesy, albeit there have been vigorous discussions and healthy debate, as one would expect from a group of mature professionals, who are all fully qualified and experienced in their respective areas of expertise,” it noted.
It added that unlike what was reported in the Stabroek News, there has been no instance of acrimony where any commissioner was threatened with being fired, since all the commissioners are fully knowledgeable of the articles of the Constitution under which the commission was established and the provisions relating to appointment and removal of commissioners.
The PPC also dismissed the assertion that it had “hurriedly scrambled” to formulate rules barring commissioners from speaking to the press and the process was explained.
“The commission has crafted no rule that states that commissioners cannot speak to the press. It should be noted that, at a very early stage of the life of this very new commission, it was recognized that, unlike what obtains for commissions such as the Judicial Service Commission and the Public Service Commission, the Constitution does not have a list of rules that pertain to the functioning of the Public Procurement Commission. Article 226 (2) of the Constitution states, however, that “subject to affirmative resolution of the National Assembly, a commission shall make rules relating to the procedure of the commission; and until such rules are made, the commission shall regulate its own procedure”. It was in this context that the commission agreed to craft a set of interim, general rules, along the lines of those enshrined in the Constitution for the Judicial Service Commission and the Public Service Commission, pending allocation of resources to acquire expertise to draft legislation to govern the functioning of the Public Procurement Commission. This was specifically proposed in the 2018 Budget submission made several weeks ago,” the letter states.
The PPC added that no further comment will be made on the investigation until the National Assembly has an opportunity to consider it. “At that time, if necessary, the commission will make a full statement about the conduct of this investigation and the persistent misinformation being peddled in the public domain,” it stated, before emphasising that it is an independent body and will “stoutly resist any external efforts” to direct and control its work.
It said too that the commission will continue to execute its mandate without fear or favour and remain above partisan politics and “any attempt to use the commission’s work to satisfy any specific political agenda will be rejected.”