Proclaim the Procurement Act

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By Neil Gosine

THE Government needs to come clean and stop playing games and pass The Procurement Act.

Procurement Regulator Moo­ni­­lal Lalchan is calling for the pro­clamation of the Procurement Act now. PNM is now three quarter way through their term and failing us miserably and although they are looking for a way to deal with the crime epidemic and being at a loss for any real crime fighting ideas, have decided to delay it longer.

The Government’s position is that more work needs to be done in it and more consul­tation is required. This is the typical story when they want to stall something. However, when they want to push through something you never hear anything like that. My opinion is that this has been discussed ad nauseam and there is no need for further consultation. The act should be proclaimed first and then, if necessary, further amendments could be made. Mr Lalchan is of the same opinion as he basically said that.

The support of the Government to large contractors or preferred contractors that they are able to allegedly influence in their Ministries are one of the reasons it’s so hard to unseat some of these prominent Ministers or a Government. Over the years they are able to allegedly manipulate who gets the major state contracts. This has given this Government and individual ministers in our political system more power within our country as a whole, and prominence within their constituencies. Able to entice people to vote for them and able to get rich off the spoils of the position that their post provide.

The Procurement Act was first passed in 2015 and amended in 2020 in an effort to curb this type of corruption. However, many Government members such Terrence Deyalsingh and even Keith Scotland, supported the Attorney General Reginald Armour take on it, saying that we are not ready for the procurement act. They insisted that more work and consulta­tion were required to get this piece of legislation moving in the right direction.

However, Lalchan stated that “over 325 (stakeholder consultations were held) and that helped us to develop the regulations. And coming out of that, we would have made recommendations for amendments to the act. So we don’t believe we need further consultation.”

Both Scotland and Deyalsingh argued against the act. Why? If this legislation would safeguard against a lot of the corruption in tendering for state contracts and reduce back door deals and bribes, why oppose it so vociferously? Why after such a long time are these well known Members of the Government arguing not to proclaim the act?

Lalchan actually said that this act will tackle a lot of the corruption in this sector by putting proper procurement procedures in place you can save billions of taxpayers dollars that can go towards other much needed repairs, infrastructure, security, education, roads, water etc. etc.

Lalchan said: “So in Trinidad, if we suggest that 50 percent of our budget… and we estimate that about $26 billion is spent, if we could save 20 per cent (lost through corruption), you are looking at a savings of $5.2 billion per year… Think about what we could do for the health sector, the roads, the infrastructure (with this money).” That’s billions he’s saying we can save and put towards other crucial purposes.

The two members bombarded and crossed examined Lalchan like if he was in court. Is it that these representatives see by getting this legislation implemented, it will erode their party’s power to fund certain projects. Do they think that financiers and friends of politicians are protected from the consequences that this legislation brings if not proclaimed now? Do they think that by delaying it longer they may have more say on lucrative contracts and incentives from the State and be able to finance large buildings or campaigns in the future?

This is a frontal attack on the very fiber of our society and entangles everyone such as the police, the judiciary and the Law makers as corruption has weaved its way within the system causing a cancer to decay our society.

 The politricks continue as the country watches in disbelief when the Procurement Act 2015 will be proclaimed as the current administration continues to play games. The real truth is that we the citizens, all of us, will suffer, as the Government plays their politricks, the country will continue to burn, unable to impact the corruption that are blatant within plain view. The monstrosity of a $100 million dollar building being constructed in plain view in the heart of Port of Spain is a spectacle to behold with no proper accounting to explain where the money came from.

We are just not willing to put country first instead of self interest, our own wealth and well being are our first priority especially with the politicians that represent us and so we lack the political will, the good sense, the ability to come together and compromise for the good of the country, therefore we all will continue to be the losers in this political game.

Neil Gosine is an insurance executive. He is also the treasurer of the UNC and a former Chairman of the National Petroleum Marketing Company of Trinidad and Tobago. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration MBA, BSC in Mathematics and a BA in Administrative Studies. The views and comments expressed in this column are not necessarily those of AZP News, a Division of Complete Image Limited.


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