June 2004, the Government published a green paper entitled
Reform of Governments Procurement Regime and circulated
it for public comment.
The period allocated for comment on the regime was extended
to allow for more input from the interested public.
The private sector representation on the committee that drafted
the Green Paper included the Chamber, the TTMA and the JCC.
The committee defined public procurement as including all
stages of the process of acquiring goods and services when
public money is used to accomplish specific public purposes.
Recommendations of the Green Paper Committee
Without going into the background of the work of the committee,
sources of reference or other research undertaken, the key
elements of the proposed new regime are itemised below.
The Green Paper Committee recommended the following actions:
1. Decentralise the current procurement process
2. Repeal the Central Tenders Board Ordinance
3. Develop new legislation towards decentralisation and incorporating
the operating principles of value for money, transparency
4. Appoint an Independent Regulator who will monitor and audit
the process of all state agencies spending public money and
accountable to Parliament;
a central procurement database with information on procurement
opportunities, process, contract awards and prices;
a national training programme for public and private sectors;
and certify procurement experts;
a code of ethics for procurement officers;
an e-procurement system;
guidelines and handbooks on procedures and process.
5. Establish procurement units in all ministries/departments/divisions
and other agencies. Staff of these units should include procurement
specialists. The ministries that are involved in extensive
contracts should include the services of senior procurement
specialists. This would entail consultation with the chief
personnel office and public management consulting division
of the Ministry of Public Administration and Information.
6. Appoint committees in all ministries/departments/divisions
and other agencies to award contracts.
The recent process
review and consultation
The Green Paper Committee has been reconstituted into a White
The tasks have included reviewing the comments received on
the green paper, amending the Green Paper where deemed necessary
and carrying out consultations with interested parties.
Over the course of the last three months the White Paper Committee
has held at least seven meetings and other consultations.
At the same time, the Government has established a White Paper
Implementation Committee that has met with the White Paper
Committee and is preparing the way for the implementation
of the new system that will be finally agreed.
Some important issues have arisen during the consultation
process to date. These include the scope of the regime including
the definition of public money and public purpose, the determination
of companies included in the state enterprise sector, the
types of procedures covered.
responsibilities of the independent regulator
and institutional development requirements
of individuals in the procurement process
of local content
transition period between the old and new system
role of Parliament.
Overall, the proposed system offers an opportunity for procurement
practices in T&T to conform with the best international
practices, due regard being had to our local specificities
and challenges. This can reduce corruption by making all accountable
for its functioning sanctionable by the law.
Importantly, it does not seek to mandate uniformity in procurement
No set of procedures will be imposed from above. On the contrary,
covered entities will be free to develop processes that work
for them and allow them to accomplish institutional goals
and speedily and effectively implement projects.
What will be non-negotiable is adherence by these processes
to the principles (value for money, accountability, transparency)
and the broad guidelines to be developed by the independent
regulator after due consultation.
The new system will mark a radical change for T&T.
Much detail is yet to be concretised relating to the operation
of the system mainly because these are to be developed by
the independent regulator.
The new legal framework is being developed. Implementation
difficulties should neither be unexpected nor underestimated.
It is an opportunity to chart a new course for T&T in
how the finances of the people of T&T are spent on our
behalf by government and its agencies.
This essentially sought to improve the process by placing
more authority and accountability in procurement units.
It, also to some extent, sought to reflect a situation where
a number of entities, through various pieces of authorising
legislation, essentially handled their own procurement.
This would also take some authority from the Cabinet of the
day and remove the temptation to become too closely involved
in procurement decisions.
This greater autonomy, for example, would include removing
the current stipulation for Minister of Finance approval for
all contracts valued above $5 million.
Central Tenders Board
The Central Tenders Board would be replaced by an independent
regulator with the responsibilities itemised above.
The CTB was given responsibility only for the tendering stage
of the process rather than the full procurement cycle.
It has human resource limitations and has had difficulty achieving
uniformity of procurement systems.
Clearly the new independent regulator would be crucial to
the proper functioning of the new system. Establishing the
right organisation, including choosing the proper management,
will be an implementation priority.
Value for money
The first principle of the new system does not mean choosing
the lowest bidder.
In contrast it means finding the best combination of price
and quality to meet the particular procurement need.
The paper suggests elements to be taken into account in assessing
value for money and some measures to be taken to give effect
to this principle.
This second principle involves enshrining that all information
regarding the procurement process is in the public domain.
For example potential suppliers must have access to all available
information of rules, requirements, how decisions will be
taken and on which criteria.
Bids will not be opened in secret but in public and all decisions
are recorded and published.
Publishing can include the newspapers, Gazette or the Internet.
An off-shoot of the application of the transparency principle
will eventually be the greater use of e-procurement.
Officials involved in procurement are held responsible by
the law for their actions.
They are expected to follow both the principles of the new
system as well as the guidelines that are developed.
The line of responsibility includes not only the procurement
officers, but also their managers and boards, in the case
of state enterprises.
Promotion of national development
A key element in this regard is the promotion of local service
providers and of goods and service.
It is envisaged that this will, as is done in many other jurisdictions,
include preferences for small and medium-sized (and micro)
Greater use of local capability will contribute to skills
development, industry growth and greater local value added.
It is proposed that local bidders will also benefit from a
price preference over foreign bidders, but there must be no
compromise on quality.
Finally, with an eye to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy,
it is understood that local will eventually have to mean Caricom
as a regional government procurement agreement is developed.