Balgobin Maharaj ready to file action over “illegal” procurement order for Caricom meeting

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Balgobin Maharaj ready to file action over “illegal” procurement order for Caricom meeting

Social and political activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj wants the courts to determine whether the procurement order for last week’s Caricom heads of government meeting is legal.

In a pre-action protocol letter on Monday, Balgobin Maharaj raised questions over the drafting of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Act, 2020.

He said the 2020 legislation was intended to amend the 2015 act, which contained a new sub-section on affirmative resolution on adding exempt services.

Maharaj said there was an obvious and clear drafting error in the 2020 act. He also maintains that the Legal Notice 206 of 2023 was “illegal since it is premised on a statute which contains an obvious and clear drafting error…

“It was clearly the intention of the Parliament and the minister that the minister’s power under Section 7 (6) (e) ought to be exercised subject to affirmative resolution of the Parliament.”

He argued that the minister “has therefore taken advantage of this obvious and clear drafting error and has operated in a manner diametrically opposed to the ethos and tenor of the legislation and the intention of Parliament.”

He also noted that the legal notice, dated June 29, bypassed the Parliament for affirmative resolution.

Maharaj will also ask the court to apply the proper construction to the act.
“Given that this matter concerns the potential undermining of the country’s procurement legislation, and the spending of public funds unlawfully and illegally, we have been instructed to seek your prompt response on or before 4 pm on July 17.”

The letter was signed by attorney Vishaal Siewsaran of Freedom Law Chambers.

UNC MP Saddam Hosein also recently questioned the legitimacy of a three-month order exempting the cost of goods and services associated with the Caricom meeting from being made public under the procurement law.

Hosein said the law for the Finance Ministry to make an order to exempt items from the procurement law was passed in 2020, but such orders require Parliament’s approval.

“On the eve of the Caricom meeting, (the Minister of Finance) published this order to say any expenditure associated with the visits of these heads of government isn’t subject to procurement.”

He also questioned the three-month duration of the order, asking if it was meant for government to get resources for the August 14 local government election.

Maharaj named the Attorney General as the proposed defendant and the Minister of Finance as the proposed interested party in the interpretation claim he intends to file.