…Finance Minister says new timeline to be set
By Kiana Wilburg
In an effort to improve the transparency and accountability needed in the expenditure of taxpayers’ moneys, the government outlined a requirement last year, for all budget agencies to publish their procurement plans in the media as well as on their respective websites.
The Government documented this provision in its Budget Transparency Action Plan (BTAP). According to the plan, budget agencies were supposed to implement this since the beginning of 2017. But it has been more than a year later, and not a single government agency has implemented this policy.
In a recent interview with Kaieteur News, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan acknowledged that indeed, government agencies are not obeying the guideline. He noted however that there are several reasons for this.
The Finance Minister said, “Yes, that requirement is supposed to be implemented but we have been experiencing serious problems with the procurement process. In fact, one of the reasons we had experienced a sloth in the implementation of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) was due to the absence of procurement planning. Now, the agencies are doing a little better; but before, they claimed that they struggled with lack of staff, and the need for training.”
The economist added, “Getting this right will not be an overnight job. It will be a work in progress. We have to create the units needed in various agencies, train the people and show them how to do procurement planning. The timeframe has to be amended. But some of them have been better at planning.”
For those agencies which have improved, Jordan was asked to say why those entities have not published their procurement plans. In this regard, the Finance Minister said he would be unable to answer.
Jordan added, “I will have to ask the Procurement Commission.”
Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran was one of the first individuals to point out that government agencies were not adhering to Item Five of the Budget Transparency Action Plan.
In his recent writings, he reminded that Item Five of the Plan requires all budget agencies to prepare comprehensive procurement plans in support of their budgetary allocations, and to publicize them in the media and government websites with effect from the fiscal year 2017.
Goolsarran pointed out that the objective is two-fold in this regard. First, Goolsarran said that it provides a reasonable and objective basis as well as the necessary justification for the allocation of resources, rather than indulging in a mere number crunching exercise to arrive at figures for the individual items in the budget.
Second, by publicizing procurement plans, Goolsarran said that prospective suppliers and contractors are alerted well in advance of the procurement requirements of Ministries, Departments and Regions so that they can prepare themselves to offer their materials and services by the time the advertisements are placed in the media.
The Chartered Accountant said, “Procurement plans are not a mere shopping list of items required or services needed. They must be based on precise and concise technical specifications of items, detailed enough to enable individual items to be accounted for using the latest available estimates of costs to arrive at the dollar value to be reflected in the budget…”
He added, “Care must be exercised to ensure that procurement activities are such that they do not lead to an excessive build-up of stocks which can result in slow movement, deterioration and eventually obsolescence, with consequential financial loss to the organization. Account must also be taken of the time between the issuing of purchase requisitions, advertisement, assessment of bids/tenders by the relevant tender committee, and the award of the procurement contract.”
Furthermore, Goolsarran stated that Item 11 of the BTAP provides for the authorities to ensure greater oversight of public procurement process. By December 2017, the Procurement Act and Regulations were to be revised and presented to the National Assembly.
The Chartered Accountant said it is not clear, what the status is with regard to this action item, as no information on this matter is reflected on the website of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
In addition, Goolsarran said that the NPTAB was to establish a complaints mechanism and debarment procedures by December 2017. While procedures have been developed for dealing with complaints from suppliers and contractors, there are no similar procedures for debarment. As a result, the List of Debarred Firms/Individuals in the NPTAB’s website contains no entries.
The former Auditor General said, “Without planning, one allows things to happen; with planning one makes things happen. Many of the leakages in procurement system can be avoided by having in place an efficient and effective procurement planning system.”
Goolsarran stressed that the cost savings can be enormous.
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