Strengthening Procurement Within the Services Sector￼
July 13th, 2022 | Related To: The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI)
Trinidad and Tobago could save as much as TT$5.2 billion annually, by eliminating the wastage resulting from corruption, if its procurement legislation were fully proclaimed and fully operational. That was one of the key takeaways from a webinar titled, “Strengthening Procurement Within the Services Sector”, hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI), and the Co-operative Credit Union League of Trinidad and Tobago (CCULTT), on Thursday 30 June 2022, featuring Moonilal Lalchan, Procurement Regulator and Chairman of the Procurement Board of Trinidad and Tobago.
The TTCSI and the Co-operative Credit Union League are the representative bodies of over 688,000 service provider firms and individuals in Trinidad and Tobago. The special webinar on procurement was borne out of a recognition by both organizations of the need to inform members of the impact of the proposed procurement regulation on the services sector, and the steps required to ensure compliance with it to facilitate continued business development.
The topic, “Strengthening Procurement Within the Services Sector”, was chosen to emphasize to members of both bodies that a transparent and enlightened procurement regime is vital to the development of any country wishing to engage the best providers of goods and services and have a thriving economy.
Thursday’s virtual session, attended by 191 persons via Zoom, marked the 301st session held by the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR), to share insight on the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act of Trinidad and Tobago, and how the legislation, when fully proclaimed, will impact the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The legislation itself was passed in 2015 and has been amended three times since—in 2016, 2017 and 2020.
Mr Lalchan underscored the importance of having the Act fully proclaimed and operational by referencing a 2014 OECD report on bribery and corruption. That report noted that public procurement is one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption, because of the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake. It also estimated that two-thirds of foreign bribery cases in OECD countries occurred in sectors closely associated with contracts or licensing through public procurement.
According to the report, some 10 to 30 percent of the investment in a publicly funded construction project may be lost due to mismanagement and corruption. Mr Lalchan extrapolated that data to illustrate the situation in this country.
“It is estimated that Trinidad and Tobago spend roughly half its annual budget on procurement activities. Let’s say that comes up to TT$26 billion. If we can save about 20 percent of that—which works out to roughly $5.2 billion—then every five years we would be able to fund the budget for procurement for free,” the Procurement Regulator explained.
“Just think of the huge difference an additional $5.2 billion could make to major projects and interests such as hospitals, roads, schools and so many other parts of the economy, including the services sector,” he added.
Moonilal Lalchan reported the OPR has done what it needs to do to facilitate proclamation of the legislation and is optimistic it can be fully operationalized before next year.
“We should be in a position to proclaim the procurement legislation before the end of Fiscal Year 2022,” he stated, pointing out that the Attorney General did give a commitment to getting it done in the quickest possible time, once a final round of consultations takes place. He said the OPR was happy and willing to participate in those consultations.
The Procurement Regulator said that the OPR is an independent body with wide-ranging audit and investigative powers, accountable and answerable to Parliament only; its independence is enshrined and protected in the legislation.
“Under the Act, once it is fully proclaimed, the OPR can investigate any disposal of any public property, including the former Petrotrin, for example,” he said. “If the OPR does not have the capacity among its complement of staff, it is authorized to bring in expertise as required to help it fulfil its mandate in this regard.”
Moonilal Lalchan reported that the OPR sent out 314 readiness assessments to public bodies and of these, only 70 were completed, and those by large State entities such as Heritage Petroleum, Atlantic LNG, NGC, T&TEC and WASA, among others.
“We are where we are today because of public bodies refusing to get ready for when the Act is fully proclaimed and fully operationalized,” he observed.
“Once the Act is fully proclaimed, there will be only one database of pre-qualified service providers and contractors that can be used by public bodies,” Mr Lalchan warned. “No longer would public bodies have their own databases of suppliers and contractors.”
“It is mandatory that you be registered on the website,” he stated, “otherwise you would not be able to benefit from contracts and tenders being awarded by public bodies.”
The Procurement Regulator encouraged firms in the services sector to learn more about the existing and proposed procurement regulations, and to register for pre-qualification in the OPR’s database of suppliers and contractors by visiting its official website at https://oprtt.org
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