If the legislation to give the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) is fully proclaimed to give it teeth, corrupt politicians engaging in illegal procurement practices will face the full brunt of the law, said OPR chairman Moonilal Lalchan.
“Finally someone in TT, under the office of the Procurement Regulator, will have the opportunity to investigate wrongdoings from ministers all the way down to officer,” Lalchan said. “Once you are involved in those activities we will be involved in the investigation.”
Lalchan said the DPP’s office has agreed to prosecute any incidents on the basis of investigations and findings made by the OPR.
Lalchan was speaking at a session for media workers on the status of public procurement held virtually on Thursday.
He said if the act is fully proclaimed and there is an incident of corruption in a procurement process, a wide range of people could be held liable, brought before the courts and charged. Section 61 (3), Lalchan said, speaks to liability being on the main procurement officer, but the list of offences under the act also speaks to collusion and neglecting to report an incident of corruption or bad practice if an individual is aware.
In a presentation Lalchan explained that the list of offences ranges from splitting procurement to victimisation, bid-rigging and conduct influencing a public officer, including bribery, conflicts of interest and coercive or obstructive practices.
He added that while incidents of corruption which occurred before the law is proclaimed could not be investigated retroactively under the law, the OPR can investigate incidents using the laws that were in place at the time.
Sections of the act say a person convicted of a crime within a ten-year period of applying for pre-qualification for tenders under the act, would be rejected, but Lalchan stressed that the OPR would not reject an application for pre-qualification under allegations of being involved in criminal activity.
“You could imagine that people could sabotage the system by alleging that someone is part of a gang and getting them debarred from participating. So there must be
a conviction of any fraudulent or illegal practices,” he said.
He also pointed out that the act provides protection for whistleblowers and established a whistleblowing facility outside TT. The OPR plans to roll out that facility a month after the act is fully proclaimed.
The OPR is a body established under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act of 2015, which is aimed at providing for public procurement and for the retention and disposal of public property in accordance with the principles of good governance. The act was partially proclaimed in 2015.