Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Irfaan Ali said there was absolutely no space for Cabinet to give its “no objections” to contracts once the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) was in place.
He said the PPC has complete oversight responsibility of the procurement process, something Cabinet should have relinquished once the Commission was established.
“What I know is that once the PPC comes into operation, which is the position right now, there is absolutely no role for the Cabinet. The Cabinet cannot give any “no objection”; it cannot be involved in any aspect of procurement. The Commission has complete oversight responsibility of the procurement process,” Ali was quoted as saying in the Guyana Times.
Following an announcement by the recently-established PPC, Government had come in for criticism for “overstepping its grounds”, by being involved in the issuance of public contracts although the Commission was established for this purpose. The Commission, coming out in rebuttal of accusations made against it, laid out on Friday that it did not have within its remit, giving “no objections” to contracts, although Government said that would be one of its major responsibilities.
On Friday, the PPC, in response to reports in the media, sought to clear up the “misconceptions” about its real functions as a recently-established procurement body. According to the PPC, recent media reports have contributed to the notion that it had not yet commenced its work, resulting in the continuing role of Cabinet in the national procurement system, whereby it issues its “no objection” to the award of contracts.
However, the body said that since its establishment in October last, it has been carrying out some basic preliminary work, required by the Constitution before it could begin carrying out its mandate, which incidentally does not include the granting of “no objections” to contracts.
They included the election of a chairperson; followed by discussions with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the benefits and conditions of service for the Commissioners; and the determination of a staff structure for the establishment of a Secretariat, including the preparation of the terms and conditions of the proposed staff, of which the three principal officers require the approval of the National Assembly”.
It said in pursuit of this mandate, Commissioners have been meeting almost daily, and in the absence of a fixed office.
It continued that following a detailed review of the applicable legislative framework, it engaged several stakeholders within the national procurement system to sensitise them to the role and functions of the PPC. In this regard, members of the Commission said it interfaced and held discussions with more than 100 public officials from several agencies and departments that function in the public procurement system and deal directly with procurement matters.
Earlier this month, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that PPC was still inactive as it still was in the process of recruiting competent employees, and Cabinet would stop granting its no-objection when the PPC was ready to work.
“Once they say to us ‘we are ready to function’, then Cabinet will cease doing anything, but since these are public infrastructural projects that need to be executed, we cannot just sit and wait,” the Minister of State posited.
“Once the PPC indicates that they are ready, and then Cabinet will pull back,” he emphasised. Harmon also admitted that though the PPC has been inactive, the Commissioners have been receiving their salaries.
Reports indicate that PPC Chairperson Carol Corbin is receiving $1.3 million monthly, while the other Commissioners are earning some $900,000 per month.
The other Commissioners are Nanda Gopaul, Emily Dodson, Ivor English, and Sukrishnalall Pasha.