Long delays in approving big gov't contracts reduced
CHAIRMAN OF the joint select committee of Parliament deliberating on the Public Procurement Act 2014, Horace Dalley, has said contracts valued at $40 million or more which once took 18 months to two years before reaching the Cabinet for approval are now being delivered within three months.
"We are insisting that no country can continue to be productive, produce and create jobs, be efficient, get things done when you have to wait for two years from the point when you go to tender to the point when you approve the contract, and maybe another six months before the contract is started," Dalley insisted while commenting on plans to revamp the Government's procurement process.
"The NCC (National Contracts Commission) has improved its turnaround time. I don't think a contract goes to NCC and spends two weeks again," Dalley commented during Thursday's committee meeting at Gordon House.
Dalley attributed some of the delays to what he said was fear on the part of public servants for the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).
AFRAID OF OCG
"The agencies were afraid of the OCG; that's the crux of the matter. Public servants who are involved in contracting and preparing the documents became nervous and afraid that they are going to do something wrong and the contractor general is going to come down on them," Dalley continued.
However, Dalley was unable to provide the committee with a comparison in relation to the period of time it took contracts valued at less than $40 million to be approved in the public sector.
He said the onus was on the permanent secretaries and heads of public bodies to speed up those processes. "We have no way of assessing how fast those have been going," he added.
Committee member Daryl Vaz said while he was pleased to hear of the increased efficiency in processing government contracts valued at $40 million and more, the administration should push to standardise the procurement process in Government. He insisted that if the Government was serious about growing the economy, the parliamentary committee reviewing the new law must make recommendations that cover procurement in general and not just what goes to Cabinet.
Meanwhile, under the proposed public procurement law the National Contracts Commission will be renamed the Public Procurement Commission and will have its own secretariat, staff and technical team.
The commission is now supported by the Office of the Contractor General and the registration is done by the technical team.
With the proposed separation of the OCG and the NCC, the former is expected to focus on its oversight role to monitor and investigate contract awards.