The recent Auditor General Report on the public accounts of Guyana, indicating abuse of the procurement laws of Guyana, is not the first such report in which such a charge has been made. Similar assertions have been made in the past and are likely to be made in the future since the government has refused to reverse itself and will thus continue to find itself in breach of the law.
When the government was pressing for opposition Members of Parliament to make their statutory declarations to the Integrity Commission, no less a figure than the President himself argued that regardless of how the opposition MPs felt about the Integrity Commission, the law was the law and had to be obeyed.
The law is indeed the law but it can be said that when it comes to public procurement, the government seemingly has a right to flout the law as it pleases. The law is the law but yet year after year the Auditor General continues to point out the blatant disregard for the Procurement Act.
As if the ignoring of the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee’s advice as regards the waiver of tender board procedures were not enough, the Procurement Act itself amazingly provides no sanctions for a breach of the law.
Thus no political leader or interested citizen can take the government to court and be assured that someone is going to end up behind bars for this blatant breach of the Procurement Act.
The most they can have is a declaration that the law has been voided, but then again, the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee and others have been saying this in relation to the block purchase of drugs from a local company to the tune of billions of dollars each year.
So what is that, it may be asked, that can be done to put an end to those continued violation of the law? Public agitation will not work. Those who speak about the silence of the wider society fail to see that when they utter such words they are holding in front of them a mirror.
Neither can we hope that voices within the government itself or within the ruling party will impress on the powers that be to put things right. Those voices may be willing to speak out and act but they know who is behind this decision and they know that it is tantamount to committing political suicide for them to criticise this arrangement that benefits one company.
There is not the leadership around that would allow public opinion to force the government to remedy its ways and correct this obvious deficiency. And thus one must look, outside of our borders for a solution.
One must look to the international community which doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year to come to Guyana’s rescue and force the government to reverse this practice of having a waiver of competitive bidding for a large block of medical supplies and services.
The sad thing, though, is that the international community is not going to act. They will urge, as the World Bank has done, for the Public Procurement Commission to be established, but the international community is very comfortable with the general economic direction that the government is pursuing and is not likely to withhold any funding from the administration simply because the government is in a specific instance in breach of the procurement laws of Guyana.
And so it will be business as usual for these international organisations and no doubt this will allow the government to get away with what is taking place at the moment.
What cannot however be removed is the stain that remains. The people may not have the option to change things but they cannot be fooled. They know what is going on.
They know the exact reason why there is no competitive bidding in certain cases. They know who is benefitting and who is losing from this process and this stigma will remain with those who are involved.
It will also remain with the ruling party which is now subservient to the State. The PPP has been ineffectual in reversing the slide into disrepute by the government that it formed.
It is muzzled by its own creation.
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