The Opposition says that recent decisions by Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan to usurp the powers — as set out under law – of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) have not gone unnoticed.
The body has since been called on by the political Opposition to “stand its ground” and administer the legislative requirements, as outlined under the laws of Guyana and to protect its supervision of national procurement.
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has since written to NPTAB Chairman Berkley Wickham, and has called on him to take immediate steps to ensure that the agency ensures that Ministries comply with the laws of Guyana.
The formal complaint was inked by former Minister within the Finance Ministry and Opposition frontbencher, Juan Edghill.
The correspondence dated Friday last has also been copied to the Communities Ministry Permanent Secretary, Emile McGarrel; Public Procurement Commission (PPC) Chairperson Carol Corbin; Auditor General Deodat Sharma; Public Accounts Committee Chairman Irfaan Ali and each of the Chairpersons of the Regional Democratic Councils across the country.
According to Edghill, in his complaint, “we have been advised that the Ministry of Communities has written and requested that each Regional Administration submit two nominees to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities for their Regional Tender Boards; the letter indicates that the Regional Chairman should nominate one nominee and the Regional Executive Officer nominate the other.”
Edghill reminded that the PPP/C’s contention is “that it is solely the National Board (NPTAB), by statute as laid out in Sections 17 (1), 19 (1) and (2), that has such responsibility”.
According to the PPP Executive, the law does not provide for any such role by any line Ministry, and, in this particular case, the Communities Ministry cannot become involved in the process of the appointment of the Regional Tender Boards.
The Opposition has since called on the NPTAB in light of this development to take immediate steps to invoke the relevant sections of the Procurement Act and ensure that they were complied with by all Ministries.
“In this particular case, we call on the Board to immediately advise the Ministry of Communities to desist from further action on the appointment of the Regional Tender Boards, and, furthermore the NPTAB assume responsibility and communicate directly with the respective Regional Democratic Councils on their two appointees to each Regional Tender Board in keeping with Section 19.”
The complaint by Edghill comes on the heels of similar lamentations by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who, during his weekly press engagement, had raised concerns about the Executive wanting to take on functions which fall under the purview of the PPC. According to him, with the establishment of the PPC, functions undertaken by the NPTAB should have ceased in 2016.
The Opposition Leader had at the time observed that “a prime candidate for a Police audit in the future will be the Central Tender Administration. They are complicit in a ton of illegalities”.
Jagdeo had also highlighted too that the matter of public procurement would be among the key issues to be raised by PPP representatives during the upcoming two-day Business Summit organised by the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
On the matter of procurement, the former President had told media operatives, “public procurement will be a major feature – the lack of transparency, the breaches of the Procurement Act and Cabinet’s continued participation in the award of contracts”.
According to the Opposition Leader, “Government procurement is the largest source of economic activity for the Private Sector … So procurement has to be part of a Business Summit. In every panel, on procurement issues, we will be seeking answers.”