Three sets of illusions have been allowed to fester in relation to the appointment/non appointment of the Procurement Commission.
The first of these illusions is that somehow the government of Guyana is unwilling to appoint this commission because this body will interfere with the many acts of malfeasance in the awards of public contracts which the Opposition alleges exist.
As such, the non- appointment of this commission by the government is seen as a means of maintaining control over the procurement process.
The fact of the matter is that a Procurement Commission requires not just the support of the government but agreement on the nominees by all the parliamentary parties.
The Constitution requires that the President appoints five nominees after such members have been nominated by the Public Accounts Committee and supported by not less than two- thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly. What this means is that there has to be a negotiated consensus between the parties on the nominees. So it is not a question of the government holding up the appointment.
Given the tempestuous relationship that exists at the moment between the government and the opposition, this Public Procurement Commission may never be appointed
This column advances the view that no agreement is likely to be reached. It is therefore not likely that the consensus needed to confirm these appointees by the National Assembly will be forthcoming.
The opposition has to change its attitude towards the ruling party. It has to accept that it cannot hope to bulldoze the government because this would not allow for consensus to be reached.
The second illusion that is being weaved is the expectation that once this commission is appointed, Government control over the procurement process ends. This is far from the truth. In fact the National Procurement and Tender Board will, even with the appointment of the National Procurement Commission, maintain jurisdiction over tenders above a certain value and will maintain responsibility for the appointment of a pool of evaluators. Nothing changes in that respect.
What the Commission will do is assume responsibility for monitoring the affairs of the Board. It will also assume responsibility for bringing the Procurement Act into full being and for determining the forms that are going to be used and how tenders are supposed to advertised etc.
The Commission will in effect be a monitoring and oversight body that can review and entertain complaints but is only empowered to propose what remedial action needs to be taken.
The opposition is therefore wasting its time trying to bring this type of body into being. This brings us to the third illusion that is being pedaled: the belief that these institutions that are supposed to promote integrity, transparency and fair-play in public office are somehow suited to our circumstances.
We do not need to look beyond our shores to recognize that constitutional creatures such as service commissions, the office of the Ombudsman, Integrity Commissions and the likes do not work effectively in these parts.
They will not solve any of the problems which our well- intentioned parliamentarians believe they will.
But if Guyana is treated as an exception to the rule, then you can look to Trinidad and Tobago and see the credibility problems that similar institutions are facing there. In that country, similar institutions have also been ineffective.
Guyana therefore is better advised to begin to dismantle these archaic institutions which only create an extra layer of costly bureaucracy. The least thing that Guyana needs is all these commissions and bodies will use up valuable public funds and end up not meeting the expectations of the public.
The public must not be deluded into feeling that the government loses control over the procurement process. It does not. In fact, as those who understand the nature predict, what can happen is if the all powerful economic oligarchy gets control over the National Procurement Commission, then the situation in the national procurement system gets worse.
A more viable alternative is to disassemble these ineffective constitutional commissions and vest greater powers in the courts. There will always be a need for administrative tribunals which offer a quick, easy and cheap remedy for citizens but the courts should be the ultimate arbiter of disputes.
What is needed is not the appointment of more commissions but systems that are law- based.
If these laws are violated, recourse can be had in the courts. It is the Courts to which the public must look for remedies whether it is over the cutting of the Budget or whether the wrong person has gotten a contract to undertake public works.
Our judicial system has always worked and it is in this system that Guyanese should place greater confidence.
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