The Public Procurement Commission (the Commission) has noted several inaccurate and misleading statements about the work of the commission published in the media recently, particularly the article in the Stabroek News of Monday, September 18, 2017.
The commission takes this opportunity to remind the public of the important role of the commission in promoting the highest standards of public procurement of goods, services and the execution of works. The commission was established under Articles 212 W, X and Y and Z of the Constitution and is required to carry out its work independently in a manner consistent with the fundamental principles of fairness and impartiality, as enshrined in the Constitution.
The commission works in a collaborative manner, which affords all members equal opportunity to participate fully in its work, and this is exactly what transpired in the recently concluded investigation of the procurement of emergency drugs by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Article 212 AA(3) of the Constitution states, “The Commission may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, delegate any of its functions to any one or more members of the Commission, or to such officers of the Commission as the Commission may determine.” Notwithstanding this provision, the commission did not delegate any aspect of the work of the GPHC investigation to any individual commissioner. 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 should also be noted 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.
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 (procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters). 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.
Also contrary to the Stabroek News article, the commission has not “hurriedly scrambled” to formulate rules barring commissioners from speaking to the press. 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.
As it relates to the most recent investigation into the procurement of emergency drugs by the GPHC, the commission reiterates that its formal report has already been submitted to the National Assembly and no further comment will be made on this matter 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.
The commission, as an independent body, will stoutly resist any external efforts to direct and control its work. The commission will continue to execute its mandate without fear or favour and remain above partisan politics. Any attempt to use the commission’s work to satisfy any specific political agenda will be rejected.
Article 226 (10) of the Constitution states, “Save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
For Public Procurement Commission