Sun | Jul 21, 2019

Manufacturers hold applause for procurement reform push

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:15 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

Jamaican manufacturers have expressed reservations about the political will to enforce public procurement reform, the first phase of which will come into effect at the start of the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, which was passed in August 2018, along with the two relevant regulations, which were approved in June and July last year, paves the way for local providers of goods and services to be added to the list of government suppliers. Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke used his Budget presentation to assure local manufacturers and producers that things were in train for them to soon start accessing this source of business.

“The new Public Procurement Manual will be available by April 2019. All 43 standard bidding documents have been completed by the drafting consultant and the Technical Working Group will be finalising the revision exercise by April 1, 2019,” he said.

The finance minister cautioned that the final set of regulations addressing the registration and classification of suppliers, and which can only come into effect after the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, will be tabled in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019-20.

However, while acknowledging the amendments to the archaic law as a victory for local enterprises, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association President Metry Seaga cited a long-standing hurdle that could continue to block their progress.

Change of mindset

“The truth be told, no matter what they put into the regulations, until the mindset of the agencies and ministries changes, it is not going to work. That is why I will be still out there trying to change the mindset,” he told The Gleaner yesterday.

However, president of the Small Business Association of Jamaica, Hugh Johnson, is optimistic that if implemented as envisioned, it would prove to be a game changer for his members.

“Government is the greatest purchaser of goods and services in the economy, and the archaic rules of the procurement procedure made it impossible for a small enterprise to access government contracts,” said Johnson. “We are embarking on serious business training for our members, and in each and every area, there are competencies among us, but the regulations have prevented us from accessing this sphere of business.

The new procurement regime will allow for:

• Set-asides – which reserve a portion of the annual procurement budget for Jamaican micro, small and medium-size enterprise suppliers;

• Domestic margins of preference that allow for preferential treatment of Jamaican suppliers in accessing Government of Jamaica procurement contracts in specific circumstances.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com