Government passes procurement bill without Opposition support

Finance Minister Colm Imbert. PHOTO OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT -
Finance Minister Colm Imbert. PHOTO OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT -

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed in the Lower House on Friday night with a simple majority of 21 for, and 18 against.

The most contentious issue with the bill was the removal of the government-to-government oversight given to the Office of the Procurement Regulator (OPR). Government MPs all argued that such a move was internationally accepted while the Opposition’s contention was that politicians should not be involved in procurement of any kind.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said he was befuddled why Government did not understand that politicians being involved in procurement was not a good idea. He said what Government was saying was they are exempt from corruption by the nature of who they are, adding that in many countries former heads of states end up in prison as a result of corrupt practices. This, he said, can be avoided if procurement regulators office oversee government-to-government contracts.

In rebuttal, Finance Minister Colm Imbert accused the Opposition of not doing their homework. He said it was an internationally known best practice that in such matters the procurement regulator is not involved.

He said all of a sudden “everyone and their nennen” were experts in the field but failed to do basic research on the matter.

He said public/public corporations, as they are known the world over, are exempt and the issues raised by the Opposition were “wholly irrelevant.”

Prior to the debate, the Opposition was concerned about the bill not being enacted as it was passed in 2015 without the amendments proposed. The amendments, which will now be debated in the Senate, “gutted” the original legislation, Moonilal said on Friday as the bill now will allow for public private partnerships to be removed from under the purview of the OPR.

Other amendments now passed included Section 7, which removed OPR oversight of the state acquisition of any “legal services; financial services; accounting or audit services; medical services; or any other services as determined by the minister.”

Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland told Parliament that the only issue raised about the OPR was Section 7, as all other amendments were satisfactory. He said he expected the Opposition to address that, but was disappointed that they did not, instead rehashing past concerns that were dealt with.


"Government passes procurement bill without Opposition support"

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