Senate passes Procurement Act

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Senate passes Procurement Act

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property and Validation Bill 2023 was passed in the Senate early yesterday morning.

The bill was passed with votes from 15 Government Senators and Independent senators Anthony Vieira, SC, Amrita Deonarine, Maria Dillon-Remy and Charisse Seepersad.

Voting against it were UNC Senators Wade Mark, Jearlean John, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Anil Roberts, David Nakhid and Damien Lyder as well as Independent senators Hazel Thompson- Ahye and Deoroop Teemul .

Abstaining were Independent senators Dr Paul Richards, Dr Varma Deyalsingh and Evans Welch.

The amendments will now allow the Office of Procurement Regulation (OPR) to have remit over regulations and exemption lists rather than the minister. The initial form, which had involved the minister, had appeared to make the OPR impotent.

The Government and Independent votes will now be returned to the House of Representatives on Monday to ratify further amendments to the bill.

The Senate had scrutinised the controversial bill in a marathon sitting which began at 1 30 pm on Thursday.

The bill’s amendments sought to make changes to procurement law—to better facilitate its lengthy processes—and to validate two exemption orders regarding costs associated with hosting the recent Caricom Summit and matters in the Judiciary.

The bill was passed with amendments in the House via Government majority votes, close to midnight on Wednesday. Opposition MPs voted against it.

Some amendments were suggested by Independent senators and in the end, amendments were made to two clauses.

Imbert said he had to do some “homework” after Senator Richards’ contribution and he consulted guidelines. Among these, he vetoed the aspect of enabling ministers to confer significant powers on themselves.
He said he noted the “uncomfortableness” (sic), concern, worry and fear he was picking up with the Government’s proposal even though it was amended in the House.

He noted the original proposal was that the minister in his discretion could make amendments via negative resolution, “But we retreated from that in the House and brought in the Office of Procurement Regulation.”

That proposal stated, “On the recommendation of the OPR or on the initiative of the minister, through consultation with the Office.” But Imbert conceded that senators were right, since “consultation” meant simply informing the other side and one didn’t have to listen to them.

The amendment now deletes the words “in consultation with” in clauses 3 and 5 and states “on the recommendation of the Office, or upon the minister’s initiative with the agreement of the Office.”

Imbert said it takes out the minister’s power and the minister is subordinate to the OPR.

“No amendments will be made to the regulations or the exemption lost unless it’s the will of the OPR,” Imbert added.

Imbert said this also applies to the simplified regulations for those in the $1-million threshold category, which will also come from the OPR and not the minister.