JCC expects compliance with Procurement Act

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE Joint Consultative Council (JCC) says public and private entities should comply with new procurement legislation, even as it noted their concerns, in a statement on Friday.

“It is understandable that any new legislation aimed at bringing about significant reforms to an inefficient system, which lacked transparency in public expenditure, would face some initial challenges.

“One recent example highlighting the issue surrounding contracts required to provide goods and services for Caricom’s 50th Anniversary, which demonstrated the growing pains associated with national progress.”

However, the JCC listed ways by which relevant entities could be compliant with the rules.

It urged, “A fundamental change is necessary on the government side to become more proactive in planning and budgeting.”

The JCC said while portions of the new procurement legislation, proclaimed in March, seemingly caught many stakeholders off guard, government entities had been adequately trained by the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) over the past five years, as seen on the OPR’s website.

“Even after the legislation came into effect, the Ministry of Finance conducted seminars to educate various ministries about the new procedures required for compliance with the new law.”

For routine activities such as capital investment projects or maintenance contracts, government agencies should already be prepared to operate within the framework of the new legislation, said the council.

The JCC urged an early start to prepare for non-routine events.

“However, if there are upcoming events such as summits, the respective state agencies in charge should start the procurement process now to ensure the timely acquisition of goods and services.”

It said the 2015 act (section 27) said State agencies must publish details of their planned procurements for the next 12 months on their website or other electronic format, within six weeks of the national budget.

The JCC said to increase the exemptions under the 2020 legislation was not a viable solution, as it would undermine the effectiveness of the legislation in promoting transparency and reducing corruption in public spending in the medium and long terms.

Regarding the private sector, the JCC said complaints from companies on perceived hurdles they face should not be taken too seriously.

“The private sector understands that if they wish to conduct business with any government agency involving public funds, they must comply with the registration requirements of the OPR’s online depository. Unlike state-owned companies, private organisations are driven by profit-making incentives, and therefore, they should stop complaining and fulfil the necessary online registration and maintenance obligations.”

The JCC said the OPR has staff ready to help with the registration process.

“The current system of the OPR depository serving as a one-stop shop replaces the previous annual registration calls – with associated fees – from each state body.

“This represents a significant step towards increased efficiency, resulting in substantial time savings for both suppliers and the agencies themselves.”