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SECTION 34 RELOADED! by Raphael Fyzabad

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:29 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Apr 2014, 19:06 by Dave Smith ]
The People’s Partnership (PP) government Public Procurement Bill laid in the Senate by Minister of Planning Dr. Bhoe Tewarie was denounced as ‘bogus’ and an attempt to defraud the people just as the infamous Section 34 law.

The denouncement was made by the Private Sector Civil society Group (PS/CSG) comprising the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA), and TTTI (Transparency Institute) at a public seminar on public procurement reform held at the Learning Resources Centre of University of the West indies (UWI) on Wednesday 09 April 2014.

The session was attended by a cross section of professionals and other stakeholders in the construction industry including representatives from the Local Content Chamber, Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN, and the MSJ.

The feature presenters of the PS/CSG outlined the history of efforts made from 2005 with the White Paper on Reform of Public Sector Procurement Regime tabled in the Parliament in April 2012 to create a modern public procurement law to protect the public wealth and punish the jacket and tie criminals who enter government to enrich themselves and their cronies via contracts. The new law proposed by the stakeholders group was to, among other things:

  • bring all agencies spending or receiving public money under a single legal and regulatory framework operating on clear policy and principles covering all stages of the procurement process and parties involved in a transaction involving public money
  • provide effective mechanisms for oversight and control 
  • require appropriate transparency of the value and impact of transactions involving public money
  • ensure as far as possible integrity in the public procurement system
  • meet international anti-corruption standards consistent with international obligations
  • promote the prevention of corruption 

However, the Bill before the Senate is not consistent with these aims agreed to in the recommendations made by the PS/CSG to the Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament because the PP Government has sneaked in several exclusion clauses just like the Section 34 law.

These clauses were never discussed and agreed to during the consultations held with the JSC and the civil society groups:

  • The PP Bill excludes all Government to Government transactions. 
  • It excludes any transactions involving international financial agencies, like the Chinese EXIM Bank which by the way requires that 50% of all contracts value must return to China via purchase of Chinese materials, equipment and labour. 
  • It also excludes all contracts engaged in by State enterprises like National Gas Company (NGC) and public bodies like TSTT (Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago). 
  • It further excludes protection for ‘whistle blowers’ who expose corruption in public contracts. 
  • It doesn’t demand that a register of all contracts awarded by the State and State enterprises be maintained and published regularly. 

This bogus law tabled by Tewarie also removes the Independent Regulator with the power to void any contract found to have been corruptly procured at any stage during the procurement process. The proposed PP law now before the Senate will make legal the looting of the $1 billion traced to offshore banks from the $1.6 billion Piarco airport contract and the $400 million heist planned via the NGC Beetham waste water contract.

What the PP regime really thinks about public procurement is clearly shown by the fact that the NGC/WASA Beetham project expenditure was never listed in the 2013/14 Budget and NGC recently wrote the attorney for a stakeholder who requested access to the Tender Rules and Request For Proposals documents for the project advising that the info is ‘confidential’ and cannot be released. How they sharing up taxpayers money among their financiers and cronies is confidential!

The Economist Crony Capitalist Index 2014 ranks Singapore as No. 3 in the list of crony capitalist countries. Does that explain why a Singapore company was engaged by NGC for the procurement stage of this contract?

It’s Section 34 all over again!!!