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Christie wary Cabinet decision could unleash rogue contractors

Published:Saturday | November 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

CONTRACTOR GENERAL Greg Christie has expressed grave reservations about a Cabinet proposal to grant a three-month moratorium for a group of contractors whose reregistration has hit a snag.

The proposal, if implemented by the Government, would see contractors whose application for re-registering is pending, being allowed to continue operating for three months until the National Contracts Commission (NCC) determines their fate.

Under the law, only the NCC can register contractors. Christie told a joint select committee of Parliament yesterday that the Cabinet decision could affect the work of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG). He said this could result in unqualified contractors being unleashed on the country.

"I am not in agreement with this moratorium. I think it is like an unbridled horse: We don't know where it is going to take us," Christie said.

fraudulent documents

The contractor general says his office had a reregistration backlog of 178 contractors. He said that in one day when 60 files were dealt with, his office found evidence that 52 of the contractors might have submitted fraudulent documents.

"Those have been put in a category that will go for investigation. The prime minister has agreed that whatever his moratorium is, those cannot participate in it," Christie said.

He told the parliamentary committee that he had already discussed his discomfort with Prime Minister Golding and said that his hat of contractor general also gave him responsibility for the monitoring of the registration of contractors.

"If they are now coming up with something which says a three-month moratorium and it is not going to cut clean, I cannot be administering it," Christie said.

I am not going to sit in that office and see irregularity ... . I am not going to see criminal behaviour and look the other way," he added.

The joint select committee is examining the 2009 annual report of the OCG. Christie has been telling parliamentarians how corrupt the process of obtaining contractor status and project implementation has been, and he has been pleading for additional powers to help him be more effective.

He said many works contractors have used fictitious documents and have falsified claims about their status and competence.

"(The process) is there to ensure that a person who is permitted to bid on a government contract at a particular level has been certified as having the technical competence, the financial capacity, the assets, and the experience to do it," Christie said as he shot down suggestions that the existing process of registration had too much red tape.

Contractors are required to register yearly with the NCC to qualify for government contracts.