“The AFC deems the refusal to establish the PPC as a sad commentary on the presidency’s will to stamp out cronyism, favouritism and discrimination and the perception thereof, in the procurement process.”
By Abena Rockcliffe
The Alliance For Change (AFC) has identified that Guyana has suffered many financial disasters in the absence of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) – one being the excessive spending on overpriced drugs. Nevertheless, the party is saying that it is not too late to curb the rampant corruption in the awarding of contracts. However, the government is seemingly not willing to give up the stronghold it has on the procurement process.
The AFC has long held the position that it is extremely keen on securing a level playing field for local contractors, and that one of the main measures in doing so is to ensure that Guyana gets a PPC.
As the party continuously seeks the reality of a functioning PPC, AFC leader, Khemraj Ramjattan initiated consultations with President Donald Ramotar. On November 29, last, Ramjattan wrote Ramotar saying that Guyana is in urgent need of both the Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) Bill and an operational PPC.
Ramjattan stated in the letter that a PPC will have vast effects on the financial architecture of Guyana.
The politician said it would have put to rest the concern that government would have had saved $1.8B over the last two years, enough to pay all the nurses and teachers a 20 percent increase in salaries this year, if there was no cabinet involvement in the procurement in pharmaceuticals.
“It would have also removed any perception of collusion on the part of your government in the award of the Amaila Hydro Road project,” noted Ramjattan.
Ramjattan, in the letter, registered his party’s belief that the setting up and operationalization of the PPC will be a massive asset in partnering the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism and sees their existence as “…wholly symbiotic. Therefore the necessity in having both must be appreciated and worked for by the lawmakers of Guyana.”
Ramjattan told the President that if all parliamentary parties work together towards having the Bill and the Commission set up and operational, both can be done before the next plenary meeting of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), set for February.
Ramjattan put forward that “A road map can see the nominations from the PPC being sent into the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) within a week, with the PAC then recommending its five names for parliamentary approval in time for the sitting on the 12th December. At this sitting the AML-CFT (Amendment) Bill can be also brought back and sent to the Special Select Committee after its first reading…Thereafter, the next sitting should see an item for the approval of the five members as recommended by the PAC and the laying of the financial paper for approximately $50M, to support this Commission and the passing of the AML-CFT Bill, which by then would have finished its work in the select Committee.”
It was noted that the AFC consulted with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and no objection was forthcoming. But the government stands alone.
Ramotar responded that his executive does not view the Bill and the Commission as “wholly symbiotic. In fact there is hardly a nexus between the two.”
Ramotar said that obligations with the passing of the amendment Bill are time bound and if not discharged can attract sanctions which can have a crippling effect on the country’s economy. He said that the challenge will affect Guyana both regionally and internationally, as a nation stigmatized as engaged in money laundering and terrorism activities.
He then reiterated that the government will not call a deal unless cabinet can maintain its no-objection power.
Ramotar said “If the Cabinet’s role is removed from the procurement process, we will be left with the abnormal situation of having a constitutionally established oversight body reviewing a process which essentially has no executive input, role and participation…Another significant factor which must be addressed is who will be held legally responsible and liable for any act, omission, negligence or the infraction of any legal principle in the procurement process. Clearly if cabinet‘s role is removed, it cannot be the executive. Will the PPC accept and be in the legal position to discharge this responsibility?”
Ramotar highlighted that in many countries the cabinet still awards contracts, and he added that the cabinet in Guyana plays the most minimal role in the PPC than in any other country in the Caribbean.”
But it didn’t stop there. Yesterday the AFC wrote back, sticking to its position, still suggesting the use of the road map.
Ramjattan told the president clearly that the AFC sees the Bill and the Commission as a shield and sword to protect Guyana and eliminate dirty money.
“Corruption eats at the sinews of our society and unless we fix our systems to deal with dirty money and procurement deals in a complementary way, Guyana may very well become a pariah state with which no one would want do business or invest.
The AFC deems the refusal to establish the PPC as a sad commentary on the presidency’s will to stamp out cronyism, favourism and discrimination and the perception thereof, in the procurement process.”
Ramjattan dismissed the comparison to other states, saying that that comparison pales into insignificance when these states have functioning integrity commissions, ombudsmen and other watchdog bodies. He said too that those states don’t have some constitutional mandates like Guyana does.
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