The government has said that it has an arrangement with the Guyana National Printers to supply exercise books. The only logical reason for this decision would have had to do with government trying to support the state-owned company.
GNPL was not doing well for years. The PPPC had tried to privatise the entity but with no success. It is deadweight business. It should have long folded. There is no role for government in such a business. Government will never be able to compete with the private sector in these types of business.
The Guyana National Printers Limited is a government-owned agency and the government may have felt an obligation to save the jobs of the employees of that entity. The government therefore may have decided that the Ministry of Education should support the GNPL.
Unfortunately, the procurement laws of Guyana do not allow the government to hand out business to the state owned entity at the expense of public tendering. The arrangement with the GNPL amounts to sole-sourcing and the grounds for sole-sourcing do not exist.
The government, therefore, needed to find another way to support the GNPL other than handing out work to the corporation. It cannot try to support the GNPL by allowing it to have an unfair advantage over its private sector rivals. Government businesses have to compete and compete fairly with the private sector.
But even more shocking has been the actions of the Guyana National Printers. Having been placed in a position whereby it can increase its business since it has an arrangement to supply the Ministry of Education, the GNPL decides to import exercise books.
Why is it not producing the books? Why does it have to import the books?
If it is a case whereby the GNPL does not have the capacity to print the books, then the least that could have been done was to have the orders sub-contracted to local suppliers through a public tendering process.
On the other hand, it could have told the Ministry of Education that it does not have the capacity to produce all of the required exercise books. It could have asked the Ministry to reduce its quota and have the remaining quota tendered.
It is unacceptable for the GNPL to have sub-contracted to foreign suppliers when it was given, rather than won, the contract for the supply of exercise books. If GNPL had won a tender to supply exercise books to the Ministry of Education, it would have been within its right to sub-contract to whichever firm it wants, regardless of price or location. But it cannot do so under the present circumstances where it was gifted a contract by the government. This is the moral case.
The legal case concerns the procurement laws of Guyana. The GNPL procurement practices must be consistent with the national procurement laws. This means that tendering was mandatory.
GNPL has to go to tender. It cannot do otherwise. It is a state corporation and is bound by the procurement laws of Guyana.
The Public Procurement Act states that government corporations may with the approval of the National Tender Board make its own rules on the grounds, which once these rules are inconsistent with the Public Procurement Act, the latter prevails.
The Public Procurement Act also states that once funds are received from the Treasury for a specific procurement, then the government corporation is obligated to follow the rules set out under the Act. In the case of the GNPL, it is receiving funding from the Treasury for the procurement of exercise books. Therefore, it has to comply with the ACT, which means that it has to go out to tender.
The taking of work and then the sub-contracting of that work to foreigners, makes GNPL a commission agent. All it is doing is taking orders and then having those orders filled overseas. Is this what the government intended when it gave the contract to GNPL or was its intention to try to save the jobs of the GNPL workers by having them produce the books.
The government should explain itself. It should detail just why it did what it did and whether it accepts that GNPL had a right to source exercise books from Trinidad and Tobago.
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