Letter: No amount of rhetoric will ‘pull wool’ over the eyes of Guyanese people

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Dear Editor,

I have noted the puerile comments from the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, on the issue of the current procurement process being “Fip-proof”.

I can understand that Jordan, acting on instructions, must have sacrificed professional ethics to utter the words he did, as published in an article by Kaieteur News, under the headline ‘Procurement system has been made “Fip-proof”, on Friday (October 6, 2017). The reservoir of professional ethics must now be almost depleted.

The facts speak for themselves.

‘Fip’ Motilall was awarded a contract as a result of a process. There was public advertisement, no secrecy. Bids were submitted and evaluated. Based on the evaluation report, an award was made and a contract was signed, which allowed the imposition of sanction in the event of non-performance. While Jordan seeks to make sensational headlines with yet another sound-byte, aided by the Kaieteur News, he is still to respond to the political Opposition’s call for the evaluation report of the ‘Fip’ Motilall contract to be made public – a fact that Kaieteur News also ignored.

If there is one thing that the people of Guyana do know, it is that the APNU+AFC government has practiced, demonstratively so, a lack of transparency and has destroyed any sense of trust in the procurement process.

Contractors and suppliers, fearing that they become targets and are denied jobs if they speak up, are some of the most fatigued and frustrated citizens, because of what presently obtains – the uncertainties, the lack of fairness and, of course, the preference for sole sourcing and annulment of tender to guarantee desired outcomes.

While Jordan claims that the APNU+AFC government has a procurement process aligned with transparency and accountability, the Guyanese people have been witnesses to:

  1. An individual, close to the government, who never owned a pharmaceutical bond, without responding to a public advertisement, had his services sole-sourced. It is a contract that costs over $14M monthly;

 

  1. $1.4B spent on D’urban Park, where even the Auditor General cannot have access to the paper trail of that spending;

 

  1. The sole-sourcing of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to the tune of $605M, which was done with the knowledge of senior government officials – a matter investigated by the Public Procurement Commission, whose report we await on the resumption of Parliament, and a matter that saw a Cabinet paper being presented by Minister Jordan in an effort to facilitate the cover-up of this transgression.

Are these cases, which do not, in the least, represent the only breaches of the Procurement Act, aligned with transparency and accountability? Did government go through a process ‘as transparent as possible’ before these undertakings were advanced?

It is being intellectually dishonest for APNU+AFC to claim credit for establishing the Public Procurement Commission (PPC). There is a PPC today because of the magnanimous concessions of the Parliamentary Opposition, since the PPC needed a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly.   When APNU and AFC were in Opposition, they used the requirement of the two-thirds majority for the establishment of this Commission to extract all kinds of concessions from the government and it was used as a political football.

How can Minister Jordan claim that the APNU+AFC government created a ‘transparent environment’ for procurement when there is not even information on government websites, including that of the National Procurement and Tender Administration, which is required by law.

If you terminate the services of experienced professionals because of their perceived political affiliations, if you annul procurement process because you see that your favoured contractors are not going to win the bids, if you delay projects to await the availability of your favoured contractor, your Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) implementation rate will be dismal. This is a self-created problem that is directly linked to the lack of accountability and transparency in the procurement process under this Coalition government.

Spending of public monies must be rules-based and must be done in a manner that inspires public confidence and the public’s interest must be safeguarded. No amount of rhetoric on the issue of transparency and accountability will ‘pull wool’ over the eyes of the Guyanese people.

After all is said and done, the fact is that under this Coalition government, more is always said than done.

Sincerely,

Bishop Juan Edghill 

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