Monday’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) began with an urgent appeal being made to set up the Public Procurement Commission (PPC). However, PAC Member and Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira assured that preparations are being made for this to happen at the earliest.
PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira on Monday reiterated calls for the establishment of the Commission and more so, the swearing-in of its nominees. According to Figueira, numerous persons have enquired about its establishment.
“Numerous complaints have come to us…come to me, by a number of Guyanese enquiring why is it the Public Procurement Commission has not been put in place. And the PAC played a pivotal role in the shortlisting of the members. And I, as the Chairman, would have put forward the motion in the National Assembly where those names got the full two-thirds majority.”
Figueira stressed the importance of the Commission and urged the swift establishment of the PPC.
However, PAC Member Vishwa Mahadeo clarified that even without the establishment of the PPC, bidders still have mechanisms through which they can complain.
This was also confirmed by Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira, who in an interview with this publication pointed to the bid protest committee. Nevertheless, she noted that preparations are being made for when the Commission is established.
These preparations include anti-corruption training sessions, with the nominees to the PPC expected to be invited to the sessions. Further, Teixeira said that President Dr Irfaan Ali will likely swear in the body as soon as possible.
“They’re doing a training programme on anti-corruption, which the PPC members will be invited to so they are aware of what context we’re operating within, in the laws of Guyana and the Treaty responsibilities. And they’re invited to that,” Teixeira explained.
“They’ve not been omitted from training programmes where we’re training staff from entities, to do with the anti-corruption framework of Guyana which is in place, it’s just that many agencies are not clear on what each other does. And so, the PPC members have been invited to that. The President has been travelling a bit and I’m sure he’ll (swear them in) as soon as available.”
In April, approval was given by the National Assembly for the nominees to the PPC to be sworn in. These nominees include Attorney-at-Law Pauline Chase, Financial Analyst Joel Bhagwandin, Berkley Wickham, Rajnarain Singh and Diana Rajkumar.
The PPC has the vital role of overseeing contract approvals and mediating contractor complaints. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is responsible for approving members of this Commission, as well as requesting background checks on candidates, had been engaged in the process of seeking members since last year, before the five names were finally arrived at in January.
Among the PPC’s key functions are, according to the Procurement Act, to “Monitor and review the functioning of all procurement systems to ensure that they are in accordance with law and such policy guidelines as may be determined by the National Assembly; promote awareness of the rules, procedures and special requirements of the procurement process among suppliers, constructors and public bodies; safeguard the national interest in public procurement matters, having due regard to any international obligations; monitor the performance of procurement bodes with respect to adherence to regulations and efficiency in procuring goods and services and execution of works; approve of procedures for public procurement, disseminate rules and procedures for public procurement; and recommend modifications thereto to the public procurement entities.”
The PPC has in the past intervened in contracts when there was a discrepancy with the procurement of the contractor. One of the most famous cases of this was the sole-sourced consultant for the design and feasibility study of the new Demerara River bridge.
The Procurement Commission conducted a probe into the award of the feasibility study and design contract and had flagged the then Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the $148 million contract be sole-sourced. This subsequently resulted in them calling in the Auditor General.