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The Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which is a constitutional body, is important to the management of the economy. It is this body that oversees the procurement and awarding of the contract process, including being a source to resolve disagreements outside of the court. It is to the country and citizens’ greatest advantage when this commission is operational.
Presently there is no such commission and this is disconcerting given the amount of money the government is spending in the distribution and awarding of contracts. There have also been accusations that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government is engaged in preferential awarding of contracts based on political and or other familial relations, not the standard requirement.
This publication, two Sundays ago, carried a story about Kailbur Security that has lost out on contracts and will likely see about 2000 workers losing their jobs. According to George Gomes, Managing Director, the business was denied security contracts for government buildings even though they were the lowest bidders. It is his opinion, “the government is giving contracts to the people that they know, [and] this is anything other than public tendering.”
The PPC has constitutional responsibilities and is expected to discharge its responsibility within the confines of the law. The fact that it is being denied the opportunity to do its work is not good for Guyana, the management of the country’s finances and ensuring a system of transparency. In the oil and gas economy, the spending of money in infrastructures among others require transparency. Transparency is important to accountability and ensuring taxpayers dollars are not misappropriated and wasted.
The PPC came out of the 1999 constitutional reform process amidst cries by the citizens for greater accountability and inclusion in the awarding of state contracts. Guyana cannot come this far to turn back now or allow for the body to be non-existent. The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) plays a role in ensuring this PPC is operationalised. That the National Assembly has gone into recess without doing this is unfortunate.
It was similarly unfortunate that the main opposition, the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government was stymied in getting the work of the PAC going and allowed the PPP/C to railroad them on who should be the Chairman. Too much time was wasted on a matter that never should have had such energy expended. The Parliamentary Standing Order is very clear that responsibility for appointing the Chairman is that for the “main opposition” to decide. It is as definitive as simple language yet the main opposition folded.
There is urgent need for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission and the APNU+AFC must make this a matter of priority as soon as the National Assembly comes out of recess. In the meantime citizens could only hope their tax dollars, existing and that which would be borrowed which they must repay, do not suffer wastage, fraud and abuse.