Procurement Officer of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, (M&CC) Jacquelyn King, has told the Commission of Inquiry into City Hall of several instances in which she is kept in the dark on contracts.
Testifying at the CoI this past week, King explained that while her office does not award contracts, it should be provided with a copy of contract. King told the commission that her department only handles certain small contracts.
“My department is not responsible for awarding the contracts. But the payment orders for all contracts, large or small, are still required to be prepared by my office.
King noted that the office also handles the retaining services for the repairs of vehicles, repairs to computers, repairs to furniture and equipment such as AC units, refrigerators, and gas stoves at day care services.
The Procurement Officer told the commission that the repairs are conducted using a three quote system.
King explained, further, that the procurement of goods and services that involve large contracts, such as drainage and alleyway cleaning, refuse removal and road repairs; procurement for these services fall under the Town Clerk’s Office.
“Other services like the drainage contracts, cleaning of drains, canals, alleyways, in terms of contracts for roads and refuse removal; those are done at the level of the town clerk office. I deal with the payment aspects of it. I prepare all accounts for payments as they relate to procuring goods and services,” she said.
The Procurement Officer noted, however, that before the payments are made, the works must first be verified by the City Engineer Department, headed by City Engineer, Colvern Venture.
“Contracts for large works, drainage works and refuse removal large contracts… we make payments upon instructions, for example the drainage works contract – the instruction to pay on progress of works comes with instructions from the City Engineer Department. So I have to look for those things when a payment comes to me for those contracts.”
The officer said, too, that while first time payments on new contracts would be accompanied by a copy of the contract, there are instances in which this is not seen by the department.
“Sometimes I see the contract. When I started working in the unit there were times when I would’ve seen a copy of contract. Every time we have fresh contracts for refuse removal the first payment for that new contract usually comes with a copy of the contract. That used to happen but that is not happening anymore.
“And I don’t like the fact that I am asked at times to prepare payments without all of the supporting documents. I cannot report effectively on the progress on any given contract if I don’t see the contract.” she said.
Former Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Sherod Duncan, had previously pointed to several instances in which he said the Town Clerk, Royston King, bypassed the prescribed procurement process for the doling out of contracts. Duncan raised concerns at the manner in which the City’s administration dealt with the distribution of contracts.
He particularly highlighted what he described as the wanton abuse by Council’s administration of the Emergency Clause under Section 234 of the Municipal District Council‘s Act Chapter 280:1.
The clause speaks to the variation of tender procedure in cases of emergency.
Duncan noted that the Emergency Clause is applied for almost every contract handed out by City Hall – more particularly by the Office of the Town Clerk.
“If you have an emergency and you can’t go to tender, you are allowed to bypass that system, but you must report to Council afterwards. (However) everything seems to be using the Emergency Clause. I noted this from the time I became a Councillor in 2016,” said Duncan, who also chaired the Legal Affairs Committee of the Georgetown M&CC.
“During my tenure as Councillor, Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, I have never seen a single contract come before Council for vetting and approval. Except for the parking meter contract, which took months of agitation before the administration yielded to the Councillor’s request to peruse the document, no other contract was forthcoming.
“In fact, it was through the intervention of the Minister of Communities that Councillors were able to have that contract at their disposal.”
“I would argue that around 90 -95 per cent of the work of council is subcontracted out, from acquisition of stationery to vehicles, garbage collection and disposal. So it should involve a process of tender and vetting by Council.”
“But the only tendering process that I can recall published during my time at City Hall is the one for the repair of the Stabroek Market Clock. “
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