Chief Sec at e-tender launch: Digital THA will improve transparency, efficiency

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at an e-tendering sensitisation event at Shaw Park, Tobago, May 7. – THA

CHIEF Secretary Farley Augustine believes the current procurement structure in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is stymieing the island’s progress.

He made the statement on May 7 while delivering the feature address at the launch of an eTender Sensitisation initiative at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.

The initiative targeted vendors, suppliers and contractors to change the way they tender for jobs and projects in the THA. The assembly is partnering with Emerging Services and Innovation (TSTT) to roll out the initiative.

THA chief management accountant Petal-Ann Roberts said, “We are gathered here to introduce to you a transformative tool that promises to revolutionise the way you do business with the THA, special purpose companies and the Tobago Regional Health Authority.

“This platform is not just a technological upgrade, it’s a gateway to efficiency, convenience, good governance, and expected opportunities for you.”

She said the THA recently subscribed to the e-tender platform offered by TSTT, “a platform that is fit for purpose, ready to implement and very easy to use.”

The platform will cost the THA $9.4 million for the year, which covers training, website development, maintenance, storage of data etc.

Augustine believes the new process will make a big difference.

He said, “My biggest challenge with the current procurement regime is that everything seems to take forever. You can no longer get anything quickly within the THA. So even if you run out of toilet paper, you might have to wait a good two weeks to get that toilet paper.

“But digital platforms like this allow us to operate simultaneously, meaning that wherever you are around the world you don’t get the luxury to stop working on what’s important for the people of Tobago.”

The new, digitally based tendering platform, he said, is another step in the THA’s thrust towards digitising all of its operations.

“We are too small of an island, too small of a government to be so ineffective and inefficient in our day-to-day operations.

“We must admit that one of the areas where we have fallen down as a small island with a small government, by virtue of size, by virtue of economy, is that we just have not been able to move things along efficiently. And I am of the belief that speed and efficiency can actually operate in the same room. Digital platforms allow us to do that.”

With the launch of the new platform, Augustine said, the THA is moving into a new age.

“Whether the rest of the country is ready for digital governance, the THA and the people of Tobago are ready.

“And I am certain that all of you service providers and contractors who are in the room, I am certain all of you will appreciate …a much more efficient, a simpler and a foolproof method in which you can engage the THA and tender for your services.

“This means that the days of rushing to a division, trying to get past traffic to drop a tender document or proposal in a tender box that is locked with a padlock and a key and then sitting and waiting for someone to open to then show you what’s in the books and then you may magically hear that someone who you did not see name pop up somewhere there – those days are going to be behind us.

“It means that if you submit your tender one minute to the deadline, our electronic platform will rightfully, correctly tag that timeline and you will not be cheated out of an opportunity to participate in the governance of the island.”

He said service providers would be able to track the progress of a project “from tenders being accepted to an actual tender being accepted and awarded.”

Augustine said they will also get to see, in a very transparent manner, the work of the procurement departments in the THA and its associated companies.

“This is very important, because it gives us an opportunity to move the procurement processes along much faster.”

Augustine said, in January 2024 he put a committee to work on a digital register of all contracts awarded in the THA, “You would not believe how difficult that task is, going from division to division, pulling books….

“The reason we have a team pulling that together is that you can stay in the comfort of your home and go on the THA website and see every single contract awarded by the THA…

“You can track in real time, who is earning what from the THA, and who is getting what contract. If you want to do business with the THA then that cannot be a secret.”

He said he is confident all the business of the current THA is above board.

Chief administrator Denese Toby-Quashie and acting general manager, emerging services and innovation (TSTT) Keino Cox also spoke.