Naparima MP Rodney Charles is calling on the PNM administration to clear the air on concerns that the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act No. 1 of 2015, was specifically “gutted” to remove independent scrutiny by the procurement regulator of such services as that provided by a legal firm, whose lead partner is the wife of the Attorney General.
Haynes-Soo Hon and Company, which is owned by Faris Al-Rawi’s wife, was reportedly contracted by the State to represent its interests in a matter dealing with the award of national scholarships and national bursaries.
Charles said “That decision must have been sanctioned by the Cabinet, of which the AG is the second most senior member.”
MP Charles wants to know whether the AG recused himself from that Cabinet decision, if indeed it came before Cabinet.
He is also asking if the PNM leadership totally ignored the optics of such a decision having regard to the fact that the AG has already recused himself from at least 37 Cabinet decisions involving beneficial interests to himself and/or his relatives.
Furthermore, how many times has this firm represented the State since this AG has been in office?
Charles notes the recent decision by Cabinet to remove oversight of the procurement office for legal, audit, financial and other services.
He wants senior Cabinet Ministers to tell us, given the proximity in time of both decisions, whether there is a nexus between them.
He said “Employing the AG’s wife’s firm raises troubling moral issues.
But, he noted that in the AG’s defense, Al-Rawi has reportedly said “there are other Cabinet ministers whose spouses are attorneys who sometimes do work on behalf of the State or certain ministries”.
This, Charles said, is indeed a very poor justification coming from a Government which claims to be a paragon of ethics, virtue, and morality and which came to power promising good governance based on integrity, transparency and accountability.
He said “Gutting our procurement legislation combined with the award of contracts, involving Government ministers, in areas removed from scrutiny can never be an example of good governance and best practice at this time. This PNM administration should be ashamed of its poor track record on transparency and governance.”