Five-year debarment of errant contractors not long enough

-REOs tell PPC

Regional Executive Officers (REOs) from around the country have suggested to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) that the debarment period for errant contractors and suppliers be extended from the proposed five years, while citing the high costs incurred by government when correcting mistakes.

This pronouncement was made as the PPC held its sixth and final consultation meeting on the draft suspension and debarment regulations with the REOs from the ten Administrative Regions.

According to a press statement from the PPC, in keeping with its responsibility under the Procurement Act for adjudicating of suspension and debarment proceedings, it held the sixth and final consultation with the REOs and the technical staff involved in procurement within the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) last Thursday.

The draft regulations state that errant contractors could face debarment of up to five years.

If a contractor or supplier has a history of unsatisfactory performance in one or more contracts or subcontracts then they are liable for debarment, the draft regulations state.

Debarment shall be for a minimum of one year and not for more than five years, they add.

The regulations note that the serious nature of debarment requires that it be imposed only in the public interest and that debarment is discretionary and may be imposed only on the suggested grounds

The press statement said that the panel, which included the Chairperson – Carol Corbin – and the Commissioners facilitated the consultation where participants were reminded that no action has been taken over the years to formally debar errant contractors or suppliers since the required regulations for the debarment process have not yet been approved.

It added that even though the discussions were “very engaging and informative,” the REOs expressed concern over the proposed maximum debarment period of five years, which they indicated should be extended considering the high costs incurred by the government when correcting mistakes made by contractors.

The statement also noted that Corbin used the forum to discuss with the REOs and their technical staff, the process for preparing detailed procurement plans and the need for them to effectively manage their procurement programmes.

“In response, the REOs indicated that the major issue affecting implementation and reporting was the critical shortage of staff to execute the procurement functions,” the statement said.

It added that Corbin further encouraged the REOs to follow up with the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Communities and the Department of Public Service, to ensure that their particular concern about the lack of staff is urgently addressed.

The statement also said that Corbin noted that adequate staffing will improve efficiency in public procurement as well as assist the REOs in meeting statutory reporting requirements.

The first consultation meeting was hosted by the PPC on October 14th.

According to the draft regulations, violations of the terms of a procurement contract or subcontract so serious as to justify debarment, include but are not limited to a history of unsatisfactory performance in execution of one or more contracts or subcontracts;  a history of failure to perform one or more contracts or subcontracts;  a history of failure to comply with the Income Tax Act, the National Insurance and Social Security Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Labour Act.

Under the same subsection, it is also noted that the wilful failure to perform in accordance with the terms of one or more contracts or subcontracts will be considered as grounds for debarment or suspension.

Additionally, a contractor may be debarred or suspended based on the following grounds: any false information supplied in the process of submitting a bid or prequalification application; collusion between the bidders or a bidder and a public official concerning the formulation of any part of the bidding documents; coercion or connivance to interfere with the participation of competing bidders; misconduct relating to the submission of bids involving fraud, corruption, collusion, coercion or price fixing, or in the implementation of a procurement contract such as intentional or negligent billing irregularities, submitting false or frivolous or exaggerated claims, documents or records, falsification of claims, documents and records.

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