The period leading to elections has been described as the silly season. However, it seems as if in and out of season, the political opposition in Guyana is offering non- stop political entertainment, sufficient to make one laugh incessantly.
Take for example, the recent and sudden announcement by the Working People’s Alliance that APNU should demand preconditions for talks with the government. One of these conditions is the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.
It does not take a keen observer to know that this position is a recent importation by the Working People’s Alliance, or rather a recent arrival. That is funny enough.
But even funnier is that the partnership, to which the WPA belongs, APNU, is contending that the WPA’s concerns about the futility of dealing with the government were not shared with it. In short, the WPA has taken a position based on a concern which it has not communicated to APNU.
APNU does not have to bother, however, about the possibility of fracture within the partnership. The WPA is a spent political force with a negligible constituency. It is struggling for political survival and has converted itself into a political leach, attaching itself onto to other larger political groupings in order to stay alive.
Its recent call for preconditions for talks with the government shows just how out of its depth it is. One of the preconditions, as mentioned, is the appointment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
But what the WPA fails to recognize is that for the PPC to be appointed there has to be an agreement between the parties on the names for the Commission and for that agreement to take place there has to be talks/ negotiations.
How, therefore, can one put as a precondition for talks with the ruling party, the establishment of a PPC when in order for the PPC to be established there has to be talks? It is therefore absurd to call for the appointment of the PPC before talks when without talks there can be no PPC.
The PPC is not going to be established until after the next elections. It is a dead cause at the moment.
There is not going to be any agreement between the parties on the nominees and therefore no PPC is going to be appointed.
Also, there cannot be a PPC appointed unless the controversy over the role of Cabinet is resolved. The opposition wants Cabinet involvement in the award of contracts to cease once the PPC is appointed.
But how can one ask the government which is politically responsible to the parliament for the administration of the affairs of the country to not have a role in one of most important aspects of economic governance: the public procurement of goods and services?
The position of the AFC on the PPC is also reflective of a misunderstanding of just what the PPC can do.
The PPC will not remove government control over the procurement process.
The government still controls the appointment of the tender boards, the evaluators and the award process.
The PPC merely exercises oversight over systems. The PPC is a body to be established to ensure that the law and systems are complied with. But as we have seen there are many legal guises, such as prequalification, which can be used to ensure favoritism in the award of contracts.
How does the PPC reverse this? It does not and the public must not be led astray into believing that the PPC wrests control of the procurement system away from the government. It does not.
If in these circumstances Cabinet does not have the right to a no-objection, then it means in effect that the National Procurement Board and Tender Administration which is an agency of the government becomes more powerful that the Cabinet. What a travesty this will represent!
So long as the opposition parties in this country continue to support this sort of nonsense, they should not be taken seriously because all they are doing is providing political entertainment rather than representation.
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