– work ongoing to close other loopholes – Tender Board Chairman
By Kiana Wilburg
Plugging gaping holes in the national procurement system is not a job that will be accomplished in two or three years. It is an ongoing process. Be that as it may, the system is far better today than it was a few years ago.
This is according to Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham.
Speaking with Kaieteur News recently, Wickham noted that in the past, contract splitting was one of the major issues that plagued the system. Splitting of contracts involves breaking up of the contract into smaller quantities for the main purpose of evading the requirement of conducting a fair, public bidding.
Due to the vigilance of the NPTAB, “or rather, the constant policing of the system,” this is no more.
“Improving procurement is an ongoing process and ensuring that established procedures are followed is what we try to do…At this level, contract slipping is no longer an issue, because it is policed heavily. Overall, the procurement system is more accountable, transparent and smoother,” said Wickham.
He also noted that work is still ongoing to close other loopholes in the system. The NPTAB Head also pointed out that training has been ongoing for the past year.
Furthermore, the implementation rate for the Public Sector Investment Programme for 2017 was disappointing to say the least, too many within the national procurement system. But Wickham stated that the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board have taken a proactive approach so that this year’s mistakes can be minimized come next year.
He revealed that NPTAB issued a set of documents to ministries and other agencies which would allow them to bear in mind, the specified timelines when dealing with different procurement processes. He said that this information is expected to improve the planning and implementation stage for projects.
“We have been offering a lot of guidance so that the agencies and ministries can avoid rushing. As part of the budget process this year, they were also asked to prepare a procurement plan so they would be able to better navigate and streamline their projects in a more efficient manner…They would be able to plan better in completing projects. Planning and execution are crucial factors and our guidance will help in this respect,” Wickham emphasised.
The rate of implementation of projects was also highlighted in the half year report of the Ministry of Finance.
According to the Ministry, the Public Sector Investment Programme, which is financed by both local- and foreign-funded sources, expended $15.8 billion during the first half of 2017, reflecting a 19.8 percent increase over the first half of 2016.
Finance Ministry officials said, however, that this represents only 27.9 percent of the PSIP’s budgeted allocation of $56.8 billion.
It was noted that the locally-funded projects were primarily constrained by delays in the project implementation as a result of a dearth of procurement planning, apparent lack of capacity, and delays in the tender process.
The Ministry noted that this resulted in only 26.8 percent of the budgetary allocation of $34.6 billion expended at half year. The implementation of the foreign-funded projects was also plagued by delays emanating from the late finalization of a number of financing agreements with both multilateral and bilateral development partners and the subsequent setting up of the project implementation unit.
As such, the Finance Ministry noted that a mere 29.6 percent of the budgeted sum of $22.1 billion of the foreign-funded portfolio was expended. In the first half of 2017, the amounts expended for major projects, including the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Expansion Project, the Power Utility Upgrading Programme, and the West Coast Demerara Highway Project, were $2.8 billion, $1.2 billion, $0.6 billion, respectively.
In spite of these constraints, Government said that it remains committed to delivering the budgeted PSIP and has taken steps towards the improvement of the pace of implementation. These include increased monitoring, the introduction of a Cabinet level reporting mechanism in June 2017, and training Ministry officials from key sectors in procurement planning.
Further, in an effort to attract more persons to the national pool of evaluators, a stipend of $3,000 per session was approved by Cabinet, for each evaluator. In addition, monthly stipends were introduced for members of the Ministerial, Regional, Departmental, and Agency Tender Boards.
At the end of June 30, 2017, there were a number of ministries which were below the 30 percent margin regarding their rate of implementation. The Ministry of Social Protection, for example, had a budgetary allocation of $477M, but up to June, last, it had only used up $81M. This represents an execution rate of 17 percent.
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