Jun 27, 2022 News
…Teixeira says citizens can lodge complaints with other agencies
Kaieteur News – Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira has reiterated that there is still no time frame set for the swearing of members for the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) even as she advised that members of the public with procurement issues report their complaints to the relevant agencies.
The minister was answering questions from reporters following the opening of the ministry’s anti-corruption framework workshop held at the Grand Coastal last Saturday when she said that the PPC would be activated, “as soon as it is possible for the president.”
The minister was asked her response to persons who believe that the National Procurement and Tender Board (NPATB) is being influenced by government officials to award contracts to Chinese companies when she stated that, “Whoever believes that…can they put a case, complaints to the various agencies, including the government [on] how this is happening. And if you have information on who is involved in the government, then let us know about it,” the governance minister advised. She said that the government would have to investigate and find out those involved in influencing contracts to the Chinese. She said, “I can tell you the government is not involved in that,” and that she is unaware that this is taking place. She noted however, that those with information would need to come forward and help the government to stop it.
The PPC however, is an important avenue for persons with complaints regarding procurement and they can register their grievances which is later investigated and pronounced upon. Both government and opposition members occupy seats on the Commission and so far, all the current nominees enjoy the full confidence of the National Assembly given a unanimous vote some two months ago. President Irfaan Ali is yet to make the appointments. Minister Teixeira said that the President is currently out of state, and reiterated that he will make the appointments, “when he is ready.”
Teixeira was also asked about the composition of the NPATB and whether the government envisions any changes to strengthen its formation given that it is widely believed that the government of the day would put in their preferred persons. Given the Vice News report with Chinese national Su and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo purporting what has been widely expressed, that the award of large infrastructural contracts seems tilted in favour of Chinese companies, the question of strengthening the mechanism for the formulation of the tender board members and the activation of the PPC, became even more relevant at the anti-corruption workshop.
The minister nonetheless disagreed with the assumption that the tender board needed broader representation because governments were putting their preferred persons in place. She said, “At this stage, the government is not prepared or has not considered anything in that direction because it has not been an issue.” She said that amendments are not made unless it becomes an issue. But the matter has not been a problem even with the former NPATB which was under the previous government. She indicated that the issue with corruption is not who is picked and might be perceived as being close to a particular party, it has to do with the imperfections within the structure and systems.
When it comes to anti-corruption regardless of gender, race, party affiliation, family or any other subscription should not prevent persons from serving, the minister suggested. She said, “When sitting on this body, you are expected to be above all that.” Whether on the NPATB or the PPC, the minister said persons are expected to be men and women of honour and to do their best. And no public servant can be asked or influenced to carry out an unlawful act the minister charged. She said the Constitution is clear on this, as well as the avenues available for public servants to report any interference with their functions.
Where the PPC is concerned, Opposition members have spoken extensively about the delay in activating this redress mechanism. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, Opposition member Ganesh Mahipaul and chairman Jermaine Figueira, have made official calls to the President to swear in the PPC members. They insist that the PPC is instrumental in guarding against procurement inconsistencies and that the Bid Review mechanism which is catered for in the absence of the PPC, is “inadequate and does not enjoy the confidence” of those making the complaints because the procurement board consist of the same persons who will be investigating and later pronouncing on the very complaints brought against them.
Pointing the media to her response on this matter in state media’s Department of Public Information (DPI), Teixeira said there that the concern is laughable since the Bid Review Committee (BRC) which is only established when there is a complaint, “may not be the same as in the case of a permanent committee.” She said that the BRC concern has never been brought to light publicly or reported on in the press that people have no confidence with the BRC. Additionally, the minister defended, “It was pointed out at the [Public Accounts Committee] last week that when a complaint is made, and it is before the bid review committee, no contract can be awarded…the committee has to answer within two weeks when the claims by the contractor are valid. If the contractors go to the PPC, it is most likely that the award has already been signed,” Minister Teixeira detailed.
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