Following assurances by the Small Business Bureau’s (SBB) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lowell Porter that the 20 per cent provision of contracts valued up to $30 million for small businesses would come on stream this month, a source in the Ministry of Business has told Stabroek Business that the Bureau is “ready to go” with implementation.
“I know that the consultations have being (going) on at the various levels including the NDC’s and RDC’s and as far as I am aware, things are in place,” the source said.
With high levels of unemployment featuring prominently on the list of official concerns, the 20 per cent state contract allocation – which is enshrined in the 2004 Small Business Act and which had originally been scheduled to come into force as far back as the first quarter of 2017 – is likely to play a key role in generating employment across communities and across the sectors if effectively implemented. Back in 2017, the Bureau had said that a pilot project was likely to be rolled out though that never materialised.
The full and effective implementation of the 20 per cent allocation for small businesses is expected to impact significantly in the small contracts area of the construction sector as well as in services such as transportation, electrical installation, and landscaping, among other areas. Family businesses are also likely to benefit from the 20 per cent provision.
Much, however, will turn on the ability of the small businesses seeking to secure state contracts to meet the requirements of the tender process including being National Insurance Scheme and Guyana Revenue Authority compliant, as well as possessing the capabilities to deliver completed jobs that are up to the expectations of government. Several months ago, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin disclosed that small business operators seeking to secure government contracts will be able to secure relevant training through the SBB.
Doubts have been expressed as to whether some of the prospective applicants for state contracts, notably in the construction sector, will meet the competence criteria required by government, though General Contractors Association of Guyana (GCAG) President Neil Cort-Rogers told this newspaper that he believed that some contracting firms that qualify as small businesses, have the capacity to meet the required standard.
Monitoring the effective implementation of the 20 per cent contract commitment enshrined in the Act will be the responsibility of the SBB and up to last year, the agency was engaged in collaboration with the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
Porter had told this newspaper several months ago that the Bureau and the NPTAB had already exchanged databases with a view to identifying and approving those small businesses that are interested in providing services to the Government of Guyana. Small businesses interested in providing such services are required to complete a registration form. As part of the preparatory process, information on potential suppliers will be used to create a registry of approved suppliers who will each be provided with a special identity number to confirm their status. The registry will be shared with the various government ministries and municipalities across the country in order to enable them to procure goods and services from that list.
Stabroek Business has been informed that as part of its effort to ensure that the initiative makes a difference, the Bureau will be seeking to acquire data confirming whether or not the 20 per cent allocation to small businesses is being met and which agencies are meeting the targets. It is also government’s expectation that the full and effective implementation of the requisite regulations will require a significant change in purchasing practices throughout the government departments.