Sun | Dec 15, 2019

PAC to grill CMU, ministry officials on procurement breaches

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:27 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
McLean
McLean

Technocrats from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI), led by acting Permanent Secretary Dr Grace McLean and a team of senior personnel from the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), are to appear before the Public Accounts Committee today to face tough questions about the flouting of procurement and due-diligence procedures.

A July 2019 performance audit by the Auditor General’s Department had unearthed deficiencies in the ministry’s procurement practices, which limited the opportunity to obtain the best price and assure transparency and fairness in the process of acquiring goods or services.

According to her report, the ministry “oftentimes bypassed the competitive process and breached the procurement guidelines by utilising direct and emergency procurements in cases that did not constitute an emergency”.

Ministry and/or CMU representatives might be quizzed on why they entered into design and build contracts with the CMU for construction of nine schools, without following due-diligence procedures, despite warnings from the National Contracts Commission.

This action by both the ministry and the CMU did not result in the receipt of value for money, according to the performance audit report, which covers the five-year period from financial years 2013-14 to 2017-18.

In her report, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis noted that as at July 2019, the education ministry made payments for works at nine schools totalling $171 million. The contract for works at the first school was signed in December 2017.

With proposed contract variations submitted by the CMU to the ministry, the contracts sum was expected to increase by $59 million (27 per cent) to $277 million, compared to the original contracts sum of $218 million.

“We noted that CMU commenced undertaking the variation works without the required approvals from MoEYI. MoEYI bypassed the due diligence of the Procurement Committee and further breached the procurement guideline by its failure to obtain the approval of the NCC for seven of the contracts, based on the values,” a section of the report read.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com

Main findings

• Misalignment between procurement and inventory management did not support the efficient supply of textbooks and furniture to enable cost effectiveness.

• Deficiencies in inventory management and monitoring of textbooks and furniture resulted in• inefficient distribution and build-up of unused items.

• Ministry of Education, Youth and Information awarded contracts for school repairs, maintenance and construction, using direct and emergency methods, which under many circumstances did not constitute emergencies and bypassed regulations.