By Mohabir Anil Nandlall, M.P., Attorney-at-Law
Prior to the 2015 National and Regional Elections, the AFC/APNU Politicians clamoured relentlessly for accountability and transparency, especially, in public procurement.
Their clarion call was for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission and for cabinet’s absolute non- involvement in the procurement process. They withheld their support from national budgets, important national projects and important legislation. Indeed, they demanded the immediate establishment of the Procurement Commission and the immediate cessation of cabinet’s no objection as the price of their support for these matters. I have no doubt that readers will recall their demands and orchestrations very vividly. In a matter of months, it is astounding how drastic their position on these issues has changed.
They are now in control of the National Assembly but there is no haste on their part any longer, to establish the Procurement Commission – a parliamentary driven process. Two hundred million dollars of contracts have been handed by a Minister to “forensic auditors” to do audit of public accounts without any resort to public procurement or any other transparent process.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on cleaning the City of Georgetown without any public procurement or other transparent process. A fifteen million US dollar project for the construction of the Specialty Hospital was handed by a Minister to a former client of Vice President, Khemraj Ramjattan, without any public tendering or any transparent process.
Another multi-million dollar wind-farm project is about to be given to another close friend of Khemraj Ramjattan, whom the nation recently learnt from Mr. Ramjattan himself, helped finance the acquisition of the AFC’s Party main office in Georgetown. Again, there was no public procurement or any other transparent process.
Every one of the contracts and projects cited above violate the provisions the Procurement Act which mandates public tendering. They were all unlawfully awarded. I was befuddled that such flagrant disregard for the law and the basic principles of accountability can be committed by those who held themselves out to the world, merely months ago, as the czars of transparency and good governance.
But then my learned friend, Mr. Raphael Trotman, spoke and placed the matter into perspective. Speaking about the wind-mill project to which I referred above and the role the company played in the acquisition of AFC Headquarters, he said that businessmen make investments in political parties and expect a return on their investments. If Mr. Trotman has expressed the philosophy of his government, then, clearly, there is no role for public procurement.
However, the cannons of transparency and accountability would at least demand that the government forthwith discloses, the names of all those who have “invested” in the APNU/AFC; the value of their “investments”; the contemplated “rate of returns” on those “investments”, and how these returns are to be realised.
After all, it is public funds which will be utilised to pay back these “investments”.