Moonilal: PM’s explanation for procurement-law changes a ‘cop-out’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – Photp by Ayanna Kinsale

Dr Roodal Moonilal described the Prime Minister’s explanation for changes to the Procurement Act as a “cop out.”

He said the Government was aware that institutional and cultural changes were needed prior to the act’s passing.

Dr Moonilal and Opposition MP Dr Lackram Bodoe spoke on the issues of crime, procurement and the health sector at its weekly Sunday press briefing at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port of Spain.

Moonilal said, “That is a cop out. It is an attempt to hide and to disguise the real intention of undermining the procurement legislation.

“We all knew since 2012 what Procurement Law was. Imagine 11 years ago we knew what procurement law was and, if implemented, how it would work.”

He said TT’s institutions were to be prepared for new procurement law. “Clearly, there will be a need for a change of culture, timelines. You cannot wait ten days before something happens to say you are going to buy goods and services, when the law provides for 20 days.

“You have to be proactive. It requires change.”

The United National Congress (UNC) was asking questions for six years on whether each ministry was prepared and had the designated officers, Moonilal said.

At a PNM rally at Hillview College, Tunapuna on Thursday night, Dr Rowley said the present law meant no one could do business in under two months, the time to facilitate tenders, responses and the input of an advisory committee on procurement.

He said, “We have to come back to Parliament to amend it. If we don’t pass a law to put sensible arrangements in place, TT will grind to a halt.”

Moonilal said if Rowley’s approach was taken then the entire procurement law should be thrown in the bin.

“Everything is a revolutionary approach to procurement because, we believe, after the Uff Commission of Enquiry into Udecott and the Brian Lara Stadium and other projects, we believe procurement legislation was necessary. Necessary for transparency, accountability and good governance,” Moonilal said.

He said most suppliers of goods and services knew that Government processes payment after it is delivered.

At the start of his statement, Moonilal said it was the UNC who raised the issue of the passing of Exemption Orders 164 and 206 which exempted certain activities and tendering processes from procurement law.

Moonilal described as “wrong,” the amendment to exempt contracts for goods and services under a million dollars.

“That means they will quickly give out ten small contracts for under a million that would be more or less ten million dollars in contracts given out for critical goods and services. That they are going to attempt to do.”

He added that the Government, having passed the law with affirmative resolution, wanted to pass the law with negative resolution. Negative resolution meant when an order is made it immediately becomes law, unless changed by a motion in Parliament within 40 days of the order.

The party was “extremely upset and angry” at this and, in coming days, the Opposition would speak on the matter with all of its might, he said.

Moonilal said TT would host the Commonwealth Junior Games from August 4-11 and millions would be spent on goods and services.

“With the passage of this law, assuming it is passed, they can then procure goods and services under the guise of the Commonwealth Junior Games for the elections in TT due August 14,” he said.

Moonilal said it was an attempt to subvert procurement law for the benefit of the PNM in the local government election.

Parliament is expected to sit on this issue next Wednesday.