GOVERNMENT’s decision to put the assets of the former Petrotrin on the open market has led the Opposition to move quickly to have the amendments to the Procurement Act repealed.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she will not be silenced, but will continue to expose corruption and demand integrity as she gave notice on Monday night, of her intention to file a bill in the Parliament l to repeal the amendments.
She said it has already been drafted and she waits to see whether it would be put on the order paper for debate.
She said procurement of covid19 vaccines and the privatisation of the Port of Port of Spain makes it urgent to have the amendments repealed.
During the Ministry of Health’s news conference on Monday, the Prime Minister spoke of the difficulty of small countries like TT in acquiring vaccines on the global market.
He warned of “charlatans” offering themselves as agents, saying some nationals, including those in the medical fraternity, thinking the country was desperate, were quoting inflated prices of US$19 to US$25 a dose.
Pointing to the poor state of the economy enunciated recently by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and the drawdown from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, Persad-Bissessar said this is why the procurement law is needed.
“When we (People’s Partnership) left government, we had foreign reserves for import cover for over 11 months.”
She said it is now down to seven months' cover, while billions drawn down from the HSF cannot be accounted for.
“Where was it spent? Have your roads improved? Have your hospitals improved? Has your health care improved? Have we been able to give the children laptops?
“This is why we need procurement laws, so whether it's vaccines, roads to fix, there would be some level of transparency and accountability.”
.Speaking on the United National Congress (UNC) virtual report, Persad-Bissessar also said Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee has filed a motion of no confidence in Energy Minister Franklin Khan.
The UNC has been caucusing with various sectors to have the amendments repealed, since their recent passage. She said the amendments have gutted, emasculated and weakened the law, taking away certain transactions from the purview and oversight of the procurement regulator, giving Cabinet control.
Now, she added, “It has become more important, based on the government’s decision to put back out the Petrotrin assets on the open market.”
Last week Government rejected for the third time the offer from preferred bidder, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd, to acquire and operate the Guaracara refinery. Finance Minister Colm Imbert said exclusivity has been withdrawn from Patriotic and Government is exploring its options with other interested operators.
Persad-Bissessar has advised against “selling out the people’s patrimony,"
“Bring the procurement law into effect and then we could be sure there would be accountability and transparency and that you are not selling to friends and family or somebody who will give you a big kickback”
She reminded the virtual audience of plans to privatise the port, which she said is operating at 60 per cent capacity owing to a shortage of equipment and staff.
“Privatise the port, again, to whom? This is where the procurement law is very important.”