Oct 01, 2023 News
Kaieteur News – Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Ganesh Mahipaul has accused the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) of being at the helm of rampant corruption.
In a statement to the press on Saturday, Mahipaul said, “The pervasive corruption allegations surrounding the PPP/C government have cast a long and ominous shadow, and at its epicenter lies the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).”
He explained that while the Procurement Act of 2003 mandates that contracts be awarded to the lowest, most responsive bidder, the agency seems to have gone rogue in its application of the law.
According to Act at 39 (2): “The Evaluation Committee shall, using only the evaluation criteria outlined in the tender documents, evaluate all tenders, determine which tenderer has submitted the lowest evaluated tender, and convey its recommendation to the procuring entity within a reasonable period of time, but not longer than fourteen days.”
It goes on to explain at 39 (9): “If the lowest evaluated tenderer is requested to demonstrate again its qualifications in accordance with subsection (5) (1) (i) and (vi) but fails to do so, the Evaluation Committee shall reject its tender and determine which of the remaining tenders is the second lowest evaluated tender…”
Mahipaul said that the legislation explicitly underscores that responsiveness pertains not only to the conformity of submitted documents but also the vital criterion of offering the most economically advantageous proposal through competitive pricing.
To this end, he said a strange and alarming pattern has emerged where the lowest bidders, in several recent projects, seem strangely bereft of responsiveness when the NPTAB bestows contracts upon them. As such, Mahipaul said, “This glaring inconsistency raises profound doubts about the institution’s adherence to the law. Consequently, it is not only justifiable but imperative to call for an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the operations of the NPTAB.”
The MP was keen to note that these sizable contract sums seem to grease the wheels of favoritism. He added, “Even more distressing is the suspicion that political influence looms large, manipulating the procurement process to favor friends, family members, and political favourites.” Mahipaul however argued that the distortion of the system not only undermines the principles of fairness and equity but corrodes the very foundations of a just and accountable government.
He said that the fight against corruption must encompass a holistic approach, commencing with a meticulous examination of the NPTAB’s activities. Further, the MP noted that restoring confidence in the procurement system is paramount, necessitating a resolute commitment to transparency, legality, and ethical governance.
According to him, “Only through unwavering resolve in addressing these issues, can we hope to embark on a path toward cleansing the system of corruption, ensuring that the interests of the public are safeguarded and upheld.”
Mahipaul lashed out against the deafening silence of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) in the face of what he described as “egregious wrongs perpetrated by the NPTAB”. He argued that it is not just sad but “an abomination” to the very principles of transparency and accountability that it was entrusted to uphold.
“This despicable silence lays bare the painful truth that the commission, which should be a bastion of integrity, has been compromised and reduced to a pawn in the hands of the PPP/C. It is an affront to every hardworking taxpayer who watches helplessly as their hard-earned money is shamelessly funneled into the pockets of government cronies,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment, the MP told this newspaper that the recent contract awarded to a company affiliated with Mikhail Rodrigues, popularly known as “Guyanese Critic,” is a prime example of ‘breaches’ to the Procurement Act.
He reasoned, “Let us take for example this pump station that I see this Tepui Group Inc got. When you look at that award, you see that there are companies who bid lower than that group but they did not get it so it begs the question as to how that evaluation was done and how is it that this award was made.”
He said besides that award, a number of other contractors reached out to him indicating their displeasure with the manner in which contracts are being awarded by NPTAB but are not comfortable exposing their identities, since they fear losing more business.
Mahipaul said that to address the situation, amendments to the Procurement Act are needed for there to be specific criteria as it regards the evaluation of bids and the composition of NPTAB’s Board. Additionally, he urged the need for the PPC to be strengthened.
“These Public Procurement Commissioners are in receipt of over $1M a month as their salary. Five people occupy that office as commissioners receiving in excess of $5M from tax payers to be the watchdogs of corruption at NPTAB,” Mahipaul argued.
He said he was informed that the PPC has issued a number of circulars to NPTAB on how to operate; however, NPTAB has reportedly disregarded the instructions, thereby operating as a “rogue entity” in the award of contracts.
Mahipaul told Kaieteur News that he believes a competent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) should investigate the recent award of contracts by the Procurement body.
He said the legal authority to investigate malpractice at the NPTAB is the PPC, however in recent times the manner in which the PPC has been operating and the fact they have expressed a laisser-faire attitude amidst these concerns, is “sad” and begs a “thorough investigation” by independent persons appointed to a CoI.
An official of the Ministry of Finance informed Kaieteur News that its request for a response to MP Mahipaul’s accusations have been forwarded to the Ministry.
$1,000 – 5US$ for a thin slice of pumpkin.
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