THE PUBLIC Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act was passed into law in 2015.
Since then, the Government has steadily chipped away at its scope and import.
Over the last seven years, amendments have been passed which in theory make it easier to challenge decisions made by regulators, remove independent officers, reduce the tenure of procurement officials and restrict the scope of regulation by exempting certain activities.
Yet despite all this time having passed and all these changes, we are now told by the Government that state agencies are still not ready to fully implement the act.
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, last Thursday announced he had received “traffic-stopping” correspondence from the judiciary and from the Office of the Procurement Regulator on the matter, pursuant to a review he had done.
Barely three months into his tenure, Mr Armour has concluded that a process in train for almost a decade cannot go forward at this point. “The country is not ready,” the senator said. He gave no timeline as to when it will be.
While procurement legislation was heralded as a transformative moment for our society years ago, the mere effluxion of time has revealed the bitter truth: politicians seemingly have no real interest in changing the way the State does business.
Many feel that governments in turn pay lip service to the ideal of reform, while engaging in what is, essentially, wheel-spinning to convey the impression that something is being done.
The endless tinkering, even before the law has been fully proclaimed, is evidence enough of this. Nobody has seen this system work, so how is it that so many already have a view as to what is wrong?
The procurement legislation was no fly-by-night creation.
It was the fruit of the deliberations of a joint select committee which was mandated in 2010 to consider and report on the replacement of the Central Tenders Board. This committee completed its work by June 2012. Then two years elapsed, inexplicably, before legislation was first tabled in 2014.
Years later, we are now told the judiciary has suddenly discovered the legislation and has taken issue with it.
But Afra Raymond, a former president of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC), put it best when he noted the judiciary’s concern about the separation of powers is a legal, not an administrative point, which should play no part in the State’s implementation plans.
Even if the judiciary has genuine administrative concerns, there is no reason why Government cannot deal with them in a timely way.
As the JCC and other stakeholders observed this week, if state agencies cannot get their house in order after all this time, then these agencies should not be spending public money.