“[…] The PS suggested that the powers-that-be were hell-bent on adopting this most unsuitable legislation to please a very well-meaning, vocal, but uninformed interest group.
“[…] He lamented the apparent absence of a thorough, comprehensive and detailed analysis by the relevant business organisations/interests, especially in the small and micro sub-sector. It was clear to him that the very onerous and cumbersome requirements of the then proposed legislation would adversely affect their operations, in a very significant manner…”
The following Letter to the Editor on supposed issues within Trinidad and Tobago’s Procurement legislation was submitted to Wired868 by Louis W Williams of St Augustine:
Regrettably, I have not taken much interest in the ongoing national discussions, over several decades, on the need for appropriate legislation on the procurement of goods and services in the public sector.
Given my other obligations, I just could not find the time to undertake a detailed study of the various views expressed on this matter—including a consideration of global best practices—and discover for myself the essential elements of an efficient/practical administrative and legislative framework to address this issue.
Nonetheless, several years ago I was at a private party, and I stumbled into an ongoing conversation among three individuals on the topic of procurement legislation. The legislation had not yet been passed. It was still under consideration at a very early stage.
One of these individuals was a permanent secretary (PS), in his late 50s, at a government ministry. He said to the rest of us that he had already prepared an undated letter to the authorities concerned seeking to retire early, under the provisions of the relevant public/civil service legislation.
He further stated that once the procurement legislation was passed—he was not waiting for its proclamation—he would submit his letter the same day, and request that he be allowed to proceed on all his accumulated vacation leave immediately.
Fortunately for him, the legislation was passed and proclaimed after he had reached the compulsory age of retirement. I understand that he is now deceased.
The PS indicated to us that no member of his family had ever been arrested or charged for any criminal offence, and he was not prepared to do anything in contravention of the laws of T&T.
In this regard, he was quite convinced that many of the provisions of the procurement legislation under consideration at the time were impractical and nonsensical.
If those provisions were implemented, they would grind the country to a halt. There would be total chaos and confusion. Very little will get done on a timely basis.
Emergency matters will experience long delays while the very onerous requirements of the legislation were being fulfilled. T&T’s already poor record with respect to the ease of doing business would be further exacerbated.
In response to our queries, he stated that those concerns were raised by him and other public officials in the relevant quarters, but he and his colleagues were viewed as obstructionist and ignored.
The PS suggested that the powers-that-be were hell-bent on adopting this most unsuitable legislation to please a very well-meaning, vocal, but uninformed interest group. He asserted that numerous provisions in the draft under consideration were not in keeping with international “best practices”.
He lamented the apparent absence of a thorough, comprehensive and detailed analysis by the relevant business organisations/interests, especially in the small and micro sub-sector. It was clear to him that the very onerous and cumbersome requirements of the then proposed legislation would adversely affect their operations, in a very significant manner.
The PS explained that if he had to implement the provisions of the legislation then under consideration, he was not prepared to bend and/or break the law. This would, at times, lead to significant delays, especially in emergency/unforeseen circumstances, and additional costs and hardships.
He was then likely to run afoul of his minister, leading to a poor working relationship and possible disciplinary charges being instituted against him by the Public Service Commission, which he would ultimately win, but after his character was dragged through the mud—causing untold embarrassment to his family. That is why he was prepared to take early retirement.
The rest of us who were involved in the conversation, not having given much consideration to the matter of procurement legislation, thought that he was being alarmist. Although we had no expertise on the matter, we could not believe that our legislators could be so inept.
Trust can be a very dangerous commodity. We must be eternally vigilant. We failed to heed his warning.
I am often told by others that I am a little too sceptical about many things. I do not know how this one got pass me.
The legislation is in need of significant amendment. I do not know why we continue to reinvent the wheel. We are late in the day on procurement legislation, and that gives us a significant advantage in that we could do a survey of what works globally, and adopt international best practices.
I have heard some commentators state that the Government of T&T had fifty years to plan and prepare for the recent 50th Anniversary Caricom summit. How laughable (comic relief)!
The truth is there was a last-minute change of venue from Dominica to T&T, and these commentators know that. Moreover, even the best-laid plans often have to be tweaked along the way as unforeseen circumstances do arise, especially in large projects.
The legislation must provide for some flexibility in this regard. Those of us who have had to either construct our own homes, and/or undertake extensive repairs to them have had that experience.