DEPUTY chair of the Procurement Regulation Board James Chang Kit, who resigned on Monday, is being hailed as a patriot and a national hero by the United National Congress (UNC) which has called on citizens and civil society to protect him.
UNC Senator Anil Roberts said there is no doubt Chang Kit, who resigned citing the “final emasculation” of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Private Property Act 2015, would come under attack.
“I don’t know who he is, but he must be protected,” Roberts said as the UNC virtually launched its by-election campaign on Monday night
Roberts even called on President Paula-Mae Weekes to protect this “independent man,” who accused the Government of being reluctant about proper oversight and spending.
“When, as Senator Wade Mark said, a government come to make amendments to gut a procurement legislation to legalise thiefing, somebody has to say, ‘Stop,’ Chang Kit said enough is enough, and for that, citizens, civil society must protect him.”
Mark accused government of amending the law three times in order to make it ineffective, “so (Prime Minister) Rowley and his gang of four horsemen of the apocalypse can have legal power through the Cabinet to procure all goods and services.
“The People’s National Movement (PNM) has used the procurement legislation in order to legalise thievery, banditry and naked corruption in our country. That is what the PNM has done as they gutted and simply destroyed the procurement laws in our country.
“They want to have the legal power through Cabinet to procure all goods and services from financial services, legal services, medical services, audit and accounting services, government-to-government arrangements.”
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said it was shameful the highly respected Chang Kit "was unable in good conscience to complete a tormented three-year term that ends in 25 days. He could not make, he could not swallow spit and take the 'final emasculation.'
He quoted Chang Kit, who gave as his reason, "The subsequent stalling and stymying of our efforts to have the necessary regulations proclaimed as we went through the many challenges to our jurisdiction, interminable reviews and subtle attacks brought on by the Government via its agents in state enterprises – Minister of Finance and Attorney General – both subtle and frontal, underwrote its reluctance for proper oversight of its spending".
Moonilal accused the government of deliberately chasing away people with the credibility, integrity and expertise to manage procurement, to replace them with a PNM party group.
Speaking on the same platform, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called on Government to immediately withdraw that "gutted, flawed" bill so that its “teeth” can be returned to it.
“If they are serious about fighting white-collar crime. this is the starting point,” she said. as she called on civil society groups to join with the UNC in a round-table discussion to force Rowley to hold his hand on the legislation.
“Bring the procurement legislation back to the Parliament Now to repeal the provisions of the amendments,” she demanded, saying the opposition will give no support in the Parliament until that happens.
“You could cry, wail, gnash your teeth as much as you want. We will not support this wicked, lying government in the Parliament or outside of the Parliament. We will isolate you.”
Some parts of the act have been proclaimed, including those on the appointment of the board.The regulations, which outline the board’s duties and grant its powers, still need to be approved by Parliament. Until then, aspects of it, including the power to investigate and rule on possible infringements, cannot come into effect.
Saying it was refreshing to see private citizens and even public servants standing up to government, Persad-Bissessar said Government has watered down the act in an attempt to mamaguy the population into thinking it is serious about safeguarding public assets.
“This shameless PNM Government has gutted the act so they can continue doing what they have always done, which is hold a fire sale for their friends, family, and financier to sell off state assets like it's hops bread. Billion-dollar assets, assets that have been the bread and butter of TT for decades, such as the refinery, they want to sell off without any proper oversight from a robust procurement regulator.
“It truly is a shame when the countless calls on the Government to withdraw this flawed piece of legislation fall on deaf ears. They have been passing legislation that serves no one but themselves, and this latest move just shows that even further.
“They might come and say that Mr James Chang Kit is a UNC agent.
"Mr Chang Kit. you are a truer patriot than any of them can ever claim to be. “