By Kiana Wilburg
To ensure that instances of favouritism of conflict of interest in the award of public contracts are reduced, Guyana’s authorities could start by ensuring that politicians disclose if their family members or relatives are involved in the bidding for government contracts.
This is according to David Melding of the National Assembly for Wales. The British Parliamentarian was at the time offering advice to Guyana’s Parliamentarians who attended a Parliamentary Forum on Corrupion in the United Kingdom.
At that event, the role of Parliamentarians in the oversight of public procurement was discussed at length. Guyana’s politicians asked Melding who was part of the UK delegation for advice on how to manage close relationships between major contractors and politicians in a country with a small population, but without affecting freedom of association.
Melding provided some guidance on good practice, suggesting that if a Member of Parliament was aware that an associate was interested in discussing an upcoming contract, then anyone else also interested be invited to meet with them.
Melding then emphasized that there was a key role for registers of interests to play in disclosing if family members are involved in bidding for a government contract.
The British legislator told Guyana’s politicians that just because the award of a national procurement project is free of corruption, it does not mean the process and delivery has been efficient and successful.
Melding and other members of the UK delegation at the forum then shared practical advice on good practice in public procurement. They said that the distribution of information on what the government is intending to purchase before tendering is key to ensuring the availability of all information to those who may wish to make a bid.
They explained that doing this was not only crucial to those applying, but also in demonstrating transparency to the public and civil society, allowing them to monitor the process.
E-procurement was discussed as a way to publicize tenders that were available to everyone.
Melding also explained that there needed to be advance agreement of selection criteria, adding that abuse of positions of power often arose from changing rules as the process moved along. He noted that if a dramatic change is needed, the procurement process should begin again.
He also urged Guyana’s politicians to provide feedback when contracts are not awarded, and to ensure that a robust legal system is in place to support bidders uncertain of their rights, especially when encouraging international investment.
The UK Legislator then advocated for the careful recruitment and training of staff, using an example of the Procurement Bureau, a central unit introduced in Wales. This unit which provides support to organizations without embedded procurement expertise, such as local authorities awarding contracts for school building.
It was also emphasized that procurement officers needed to be paid sufficiently and that record keeping needed to be flawless in order to provide an audit trail. Mr. Melding suggested that for large procurements related to extractive industries, clauses can be inserted into contracts relating to the provision of an independent monitor.
Melding also warned about inefficient spending at the end of financial years, and spending during periods of national emergencies where rules are often disregarded.
This workshop for Guyana’s Parliamentarians was organized by the National Assembly of Guyana and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) UK. The CPA UK is one of the largest and most active branches in the CPA community and delivers a unique annual international outreach programme in Westminster and overseas.
CPA UK works to encourage parliamentary diplomacy and build parliamentary capacity on behalf of the UK Parliament and the wider CPA. Through activities such as conferences, seminars, delegations and parliamentary strengthening teams, CPA UK provides members with a practical, current and first-hand perspective on international issues facing fellow parliamentarians across the Commonwealth.
Working with CPA UK’s international outreach programmes also enhances Parliamentarians’ understanding of issues facing Diaspora communities in their own constituencies.
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