On a few occasions, government cannot be faulted for meaning well. And the Procurement Act, as well as these far-flung tender boards, stand as that hoped-for ideal of the clean and constructive, as well as what was supposed to bring comforting; with the national functioning as a model for the smaller equivalents in the various regions on how to conduct the business of the people.
But there is that old, tiring, much applicable adage: the stricter the government, the wiser the population. Now, tender boards are in the news.
They are in the news. Not for fairness and integrity; but condemnation. It is for the castigation of jobs not done, through failure at the unbiased and the principled. Once again in dirty Guyana, there is more of this shredded laundry. Where there should be bureaucratic cleanliness, there is individual tawdriness; and where there ought to be a consistent purity of practice and result, there are only the same pollutions.
Governments may have the best of intentions, and tender processes represent a solid apparatus. But that is evident only on the drawing board of the mind, and on the stacks of paper that choke this country into a coma for its lack of implementing in both letter and spirit.
Because at bottom, it is people who make these things come alive and establish a lasting standard. People of calibre, who dedicate themselves to make administrative visions, take on a splendid life that cannot be faulted by anyone, including the hypercritical and the vigilantly suspicious. It is those same kinds of officials, who convert the provisions on paper to that which delivers a well-respected product. All will never be satisfied, but most will applaud.
Regrettably, in Guyana, the evidence mounts that a certain kind of people dominate those spaces where such affairs of state take centre stage; where a great deal of mammon comes into play; and where there is playing for patronage. Inside and outside, there is this 2-step tango perfected for the longest time now. At the core, it is fix, favour, fulfill. These are the sleazy approaches, the crafty calculations, and the settled expectations that run the day, and ruin it, too. The corrupt are rewarded; the clean denied.
Contingencies are built-in for the known force majeures embodied in cultural and environmental considerations. Get the slimy deed done. It is one big joke; all these procedures and policies violated at will, but with great skill.
Just the other day, there were media reports of someone daring enough to tamper with what was already in motion. The edge of a gutter reality; a clear and ongoing danger. When looked at carefully and clinically, the bidding process has now assumed all the cleverness and chicanery of a particular kind of delightful mathematical and scientific sorcery. The de minimis bid that ekes out a fair and reasonable margin only gets consumed by the inflated one that takes care of both awarder and awardee. All the shadowy accounting and compartmentalized collection traditions cannot disguise the vulgarities that have prevailed for so long, and which continue to flourish unchecked, as the cunning and wily find ways to game the system. Remember: stricter the government, wiser the population. Remember, too: governments are static and hobbled by the trap of time; on the other hand, populations are mentally agile, and take the time to study to detect loopholes, to undercut, and to marshal willing collaborators.
Taken together, this is what inflicts great harm on the unknowns and the underdogs, who have little by the way of political clout, and less in the tangible of a reimbursement record that recommends rearranging matters. There is the growing consensus that the tender boards are pigs painted with polka dots and tried to pass off as snow leopards of integrity. Local tender boards, like those hard-to-find cats, bring sharp disappointment upon the discovery that there are the old stinking skunks.
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