The prime minister’s failure to make available a report into contracts entered into by his administration since September 2021 is another example of the Davis administration’s refusal to be fully accountable to the Bahamian people, Opposition Leader Michael Pintard said yesterday.
Pintard issued a statement in response to a Nassau Guardian article published yesterday, which pointed out that it has been six months since Prime Minister Philip Davis pledged in Parliament that the report was being finalized and would be published “in due course”.
No such report was ever made public.
Financial Secretary Simon Wilson wished not to address the matter himself when contacted on Wednesday, and Acting Chief Procurement Officer Carl Oliver said one government agency had not been putting the required information into the eProcurement portal and thus slowed down the completion of the report.
Pintard said, “The opposition read with absolute astonishment the report in The Nassau Guardian of August 31st regarding the government’s utter and complete failure to follow the Procurement Act.
“They have now proven to the Bahamian people that the issue never was the 2021 Procurement Act introduced by the FNM. The PLP is determined not to follow even the Procurement Act 2023 that they brought to Parliament. Absolutely no one is surprised that Prime Minister Davis and his team refuse to be accountable.”
Despite voting for the Public Procurement Bill 2021 when they were in opposition, PLP members have repeatedly called that law deficient, refused to adhere to it, and passed a bill to repeal that act.
The government launched the new eprocurement platform last October, saying it is the avenue through which goods and services for all government and quasi-government agencies will be sourced, with the objective of providing a higher level of accountability.
The act promotes “fair and equitable treatment of all suppliers, consultants and contractors and to further promote competition, transparency, sustainability and integrity in public procurement”.
Pintard noted, “Prime Minister Davis is almost a year late in providing the public with the annual procurement report detailing every contract approved by the PLP since taking office. Over six months ago, he assured Bahamians that the report would be published imminently. Now we are getting nonsensical excuses from the Ministry of Finance about one agency or the other not uploading information online.”
When asked about the award of food contracts for the uniformed services and whether there had been competitive bidding, Oliver also told The Nassau Guardian, “Government agencies are at liberty to use any procurement methodology that they feel will assist them in achieving their objectives.
“The Ministry of Finance or the Procurement Department cannot tell a government agency, unless they ask us, what procurement methodology they should use.
“If they were to use direct contracting, that’s fine. The act speaks to that. If they want to use competitive bidding, requests for proposals, that’s all fine.”
But the opposition took exception to this claim.
“The law allows no such thing. Both the 2021 Act and the more recent 2023 say procurement must be done by competitive bidding except for several circumstances as defined in the law,” Pintard said.
“Section 22 of the Public Procurement Act 2023 expressly states that ‘the procurement of goods, works and services shall be undertaken by means of competitive bidding’, with the specific exceptions being detailed in the act. The law also requires public agencies to document the reason for using a non-competitive bid process.
“We are confident that despite the barrage of indefensible excuses, the prime minister, his Cabinet and all senior public officials know exactly what the law says and what their responsibilities are.”
Pintard charged, “Every single day, this non-transparent and wholly unaccountable Davis administration continues to disqualify themselves from the high offices they hold. We are convinced that they simply do not care and will not do better.”
On Wednesday, the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) also raised concerns related to a lack of full adherence by government to the Procurement Act.
The organization pointed to the “absence of reporting on contracted government bids”.
ORG noted that under the Procurement Act 2023 and the previous Procurement Act 2021 – which the Davis administration had called deficient – there is a legal obligation to report on contracts.
“Establishing a clear, equitable process for awarding government contracts is essential for citizens to perceive their interests as being valued and reflected in governmental decisions,” the organization said.
“However, despite specific provisions of the act being implemented, such as a comprehensive website posting available bids, the continuing contravention of the act of not providing public information and clarity regarding the awarding of bids, awardees, and contract conditions significantly hampers transparency and discourages citizen involvement.”