Procurement law amendments will be brought shortly, PM says

The government will bring amendments to the Public Procurement Act shortly after Parliament resumes next month, Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday, reiterating that the current legislation is “not workable”.

Davis said the Public Procurement Act is “causing challenges”, but he did not elaborate on those challenges.

“If we follow the law as it is, we would never be able to bring the relief to people,” Davis said.

“You would have seen the challenges that we had at the hospital. If we were to follow that, we would probably still be in the portals trying to address the issues. So they’re not workable. There are suggestions as to how we amend those laws.

“They are under consideration because we want to come up with a workable portal, a workable solution for the challenges that we have. We have an archipelago, and so whatever construct we have has to take into account our peculiar and particular circumstance.

“We have to be able to respond to the needs of our people almost immediately in some instances.”

Davis said reporters should ask the opposition why, while it was in government, the Free National Movement (FNM) passed the bill early in the year but did not allow it go into effect until later in the year.

He said the FNM administration understood that what it was doing with public procurement was not workable.

When asked when the government will bring the amendments, the prime minister replied, “Very, very early when we get back from vacation. In fact, it is anticipated that it will be published before we go back and before it’s laid, so if there is any input that the general public might want may be had.”

In opposition, the Progressive Liberal Party voted to pass the Public Procurement Bill in March 2021.

That act came into force on September 1, 2021 after the Minnis administration faced strong criticisms from the then-opposition and others over perceived foot dragging in implementing the new law, which provides for the establishment of a public procurement board, a digital procurement platform and an electronic vendor registry.

The act establishes a modern legal framework for government procurement to ensure fairness and value for money, promote efficiency, cut back on government waste and discourage corruption in contract awards.

It is designed to provide for transparency in how government ministries, departments and other agencies enter contracts and expend public money.

The United States Department of State’s 2022 Investment Climate Statement on The Bahamas, which was released last week, pointed out that the Public Procurement Act was enacted last September to overhaul the administration of government contracts and improve transparency and accountability, but most agencies with large procurement budgets do not utilize the existing e-procurement portal or registry.

“US firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI and have reported perceived corruption in government procurement and in the FDI approvals process,” the report states.

Companies continue to complain that the tender process for public contracts is inconsistent, it said, adding that the companies allege it is difficult to obtain information on the status of bids.

The bureau described the lack of transparency in government procurement as one of the negative aspects of The Bahamas’ investment climate.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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