Demming: Commendable that Gov’t proclaimed Procurement Legislation; but keep Lalchan!

“[…] The theft of billions of dollars could have been prevented if we had a fully functional [Office of Procurement Legislation] according to acceptable legislation. We cannot underestimate the lost opportunity to have invested those stolen funds to take care of our social needs, such as health, education, utilities and infrastructure, and more.

“[…] Undoubtedly, [Moonilal Lalchan] is the most competent person to ensure that the office can hit the ground running and not be stymied by a new appointee who is unlikely to have his experience…”

In the following guest column, Dennise Demming stresses the importance of Trinidad and Tobago’s procurement legislation and urges the Government to retain chairman and procurement regulator Moonilal Lalchan:

Procurement regulator Moonilal Lalchan.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2018)

How can a white paper published in 2005 take until 2023 to be proclaimed?


Approximately 15,000 children were born in Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, and as of this year, those children are adults. Something is deeply wrong with a system that takes the same time in which a baby transitions from birth to adulthood to proclaim a simple piece of legislation. The legislation has been bouncing around for 18 years!

Successive governments have ignored the Procurement Bill because such legislation, along with the establishment of a fully functioning Office of Procurement Legislation (OPRTT), will likely put a spoke in their corruption wheel and add transparency to the awarding of contracts.

The theft of billions of dollars could have been prevented if we had a fully functional ORPTT according to acceptable legislation. We cannot underestimate the lost opportunity to have invested those stolen funds to take care of our social needs, such as health, education, utilities and infrastructure, and more.

Photo: Police officers monitor protest action in Barrackpore.

With a structured, transparent approach to procurement, our levels of honesty and integrity would have been different.

It’s commendable that after eight years in office, this Government has ensured the proclamation of the Procurement Legislation. Despite the three amendments to the law and regulations, we are finally ready to proceed with adding order, transparency, and good governance to the awarding of contracts.

Five years ago, on 12 January 2018, the President of the Republic appointed Mr Moonilal Lalchan as chairman/ procurement regulator, and this gave several of us hope that finally, our country was on the way to regularizing the award of contracts and ultimately ensure that the back-room deals would be reduced.

I never imagined that Mr Lalchan would have occupied office for five years and be unable to implement the law. I hope the government sees the value in having him reappointed as chairman/ procurement regulator.

Procurement regulator Moonilal Lalchan.
(Copyright Office of the Procurement Regulator)

Undoubtedly, he is the most competent person to ensure that the office can hit the ground running and not be stymied by a new appointee who is unlikely to have Mr Lalchan’s experience.

The Piarco Airport scandal is an example of how wrongdoers prevail in our country. Since its inception in 1996, the project was plagued with allegations of corruption, and to date, the persons who have been accused and who even faced the courts are still free.

It confirms to those inclined to the transgression that you can continue to do wrong and face minimum consequences.

If we are to change the corruption culture of our society, the leadership must change the way it does business.

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl G Jung is credited with the statement: “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

The scourge of corruption…

So we can talk about corruption till the cows come home, but if there are no systems, processes, and procedures in place to ensure order, good governance, and integrity, we shall continue to experience the chaos and crime which typifies our daily existence.

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