New Public Procurement Bill passed in House 

There was no ulterior motive behind the Davis administration’s decision to repeal and replace the Public Procurement Act and the Public Finance Management Act, Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday.

Parliamentarians last night passed the Public Procurement Bill, 2022 and the Public Finance Management Bill, 2023.

The opposition voted against the bills.

When he moved the debate, Davis said the new bills either strengthen loopholes within the existing legislation or cover blind spots and address unintended consequences.

“The passage of replacement legislation is 

necessary to fulfill the promise of effective public financial management, efficient public procurement processes, and more transparent and fair governance for all,” the prime minister said.

“There is no ulterior motive.”

The Davis administration, which came to power in September 2021, the same month that the Public Procurement Act came into force, foreshadowed that it intended to bring amendments to the act.

Davis called the existing legislation troublesome and challenging. Yet in opposition, the Progressive Liberal Party voted to pass the Public Procurement Bill in March 2021.

The opposition, led by Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Michael Pintard, has accused the Davis administration of breaking the law.

Among the provisions in the 2021 act, an annual report must be tabled in Parliament every October detailing every contract awarded during the reporting period, among other things.

Davis has acknowledged that his administration ignored major provisions in that act but has insisted that his government is following the law – a claim he reiterated yesterday.

“I know the other side took great pleasure in accusing this administration of not adhering to the law on a variety of matters,” the prime minister said.

“However, it has become abundantly clear that they have no clue how to implement the legislation they passed.

“The fact that they were clueless with respect to implementation is confirmed by the lack of documentation or background information related to the drafting of the legislation.

“Without this relevant background, it is nearly impossible for outside observers to understand the reason for many of the clauses in the legislation and how it’s supposed to work in the Bahamian context.

“It’s as if they simply grabbed hold of a template provided to them and filled in the blanks with no thought about the practical aspects of the legislation.”

Davis said the current act allows for the “unequal granting of contracts”.

“For example, in the procurement of food, one vendor by virtue of its size and corporate relations, dominated the procurement of food on behalf of the government,” he said.

“Under the current act, this dominance is allowed. In fact, it is an outcome that the act, as written, intentionally brings about.

“However, common sense would tell you that the government nor the Bahamian people want to exist in a reality where only the largest, richest companies with the most resources get every contract.”

The new bill, Davis said, allows for the “preferential treatment of specific groups”.

“We will introduce preferences for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, women-owned business, family island businesses and youth-owned businesses,” he said.

“These are high-priority areas we are targeting as a government to diversify opportunities in The Bahamas.”

The prime minister said while the opposition hyped up the current law, it was a disappointment.

“The difference between the bill before us today and the existing act further highlight this fact,” he said.

“One was an act passed right before an election. The other is a bill developed throughout our first year and a half and delivered here today. These reforms have not been delayed. And we don’t have an election to hide behind.

“We will govern according to the highest standards reflected in these bills for the next three and a half years. The entire Bahamas will witness the expanded transparency, improved operational efficiency, and increased accountability brought about by these bills.

“The proof of the effectiveness of our approach will be clearly seen in our results.”

The bills debated and passed yesterday replace the Public Finance Management Act, 2021; the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2018; sections of the Financial Administration and Audit Act; and the Public Procurement Act 2021.

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.

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