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IDB cedes some territory to Jamaica over contract reviews

Published:Friday | January 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Finance Minister Audley Shaw and head of the IDB Caribbean Group Therese Turner-Jones shake hands at the signing ceremony for the agreement regarding partial use of the National Procurement System of Jamaica for Inter-American Development Bank-financed projects on Wedensdasy January 11, 2017 at the Ministry of Finance and Planning in Kingston.

Tenders for some contracts to be issued by the State under IDB-funded projects and programmes can now be assessed using Jamaica's national procurement system.

The agreement signed on Wednesday, will only apply to some projects, but Jamaica is touting it as international endorsement of its procurement system. It becomes the first Caribbean country to partner with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in this way.

Previously, the IDB required that all contracts to be issued under IDB-funded projects, whether financed through loans or grants, be evaluated using its procurement guidelines.

But now, it has eased that stipulation partially to allow for price comparison, price shopping or limited tenders under Jamaica's system.

"This was the method reviewed, analysed and validated by the Inter-American Development Bank and the one that can be used in our operations. We are in the process of validating (comparing against best international practices) the rest of the procurement methods in Jamaican law and regulations and expect to be using them by 2018," the IDB said in response to Financial Gleaner queries on Thursday.

At Wednesday's signing ceremony, general manager of the Caribbean Group of IDB, Therese Turner-Jones, described the agreement as "quite a significant step and a big deal, both for the IDB and the Government of Jamaica", saying "it indicates that Jamaica has made several significant strides in modernising its public procurement processes and, therefore, only one set of rules will apply as it pertains to procurement for IDB-funded projects."

Finance Minister Audley Shaw said Jamaica's procure-ment system was rigorous enough to even surpass IDB stipulations.

"It was noted that in some instances, the government procedures surpass the IDB's policies, which is an indication that the partial use of the Jamaican procurement system in IBD-financed projects will not create any challenges in project implementation with the procurement procedures currently in place," Shaw said

Turner-Jones noted that this is the first time that the IDB has signed a procurement modernisation agreement in the Caribbean region.

"Jamaica is blazing a positive trail by taking the necessary steps to modernise its public procurement system in terms of the use of ICT and the development of an advanced system of regulation and supervision. This signing is, therefore, a strong signal of systemic growth in Jamaica's governance systems," Turner-Jones said.

In the meantime, Shaw has urged procurement officers to speed up the reviews of projects that come before them for more efficient governance.

"It doesn't mean and it cannot mean that for it to be a fairly good system, it must mean that the process is slow. This is not a marriage between a good process and slowing down the procurement system. Those who are in charge of procurement need to do whatever is in their power to speed up the process," Shaw urged.

At the same time, the IDB says international competitive bidding, or ICB, will always follow IDB procurement policies.

"That is why we do not use the label 'complete or total use of country system'. ICB is the appropriate procurement method for major and complex contracts," the IDB told the Financial Gleaner.

A determination of the contracts that will fall under the agreement with Jamaica with be based on dollar value and method of procurement.

The IDB says price comparison/shopping/limited tender "is the most appropriate procurement method for small- value and simple goods, works and services", and that for Jamaica, it generally considers small value to be US$1.5 million for works projects and US$150,000 for goods.