Only 10 complaints received out of 1558 contracts awarded in 2022-2023

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
PPC Chairperson Pauline Chase (center) handed over the 2022-2023 Annual Report to Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir only last week

…represents less than 1% of contracts awarded by NPTAB

Despite claims from sections of society that Guyana’s procurement system is an unfair one, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which is statutorily tasked with investigating such matters, only received 10 complaints in a year when 1,558 contracts were awarded.

This is contained in the PPC’s Annual Report for July 2022-July 2023, which was laid in the National Assembly during the 83rd sitting of the house. During that time frame, 1,593 tenders were opened and 1,558 contracts were awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).

Based on the PPC report, the complaints received represented less than  1 per cent of the contracts awarded, leading the commission to remark that the complaints to contract award ratio was a low one. They did, however, also comment on the challenges faced with conducting their investigations and made recommendations for improving this process.

“Access to information also proved challenging, as there were delays in the submission of the tender proceedings to the commission. It is proposed that steps be taken to establish a standard operating procedure within procuring entities and tender boards for the submission of information to the commission to facilitate investigations.”

“The absence of a statutorily prescribed process for investigations particularly under Article 212AA (i) and (j) leads to uncertainty in the steps to be taken. It is proposed that legislation be enacted to enable these provisions,” the PPC, which is currently chaired by former President of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) Pauline Chase, said in its report.

Meanwhile, of the 10 complaints received, the PPC had completed its investigations in four of them as of July of last year. The ones that were still open at that time were related to contracts for fixed and mobile pumps (National Drainage and Irrigation Authority), the four lane Eccles to Great Diamond Highway (Central Housing and Planning Authority), the construction of the Bamia/Amelia’s Ward primary school (Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development) and supply of dietary to the Guyana Prison Service. Three of the 10 complaints were made by current opposition Member of Parliament David Patterson.

In a bid to clamp down on corrupt practices, the government had said a few months ago that it will be reviewing all public procurement systems countrywide. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had issued this warning a few months ago, when he had assured that if persons get caught in any corrupt practices, they would face the consequences. Moreover, the Vice President had said that there could be sting operations set up during this review process to weed out corruption in the public sector.

“You will have sting operations too. So, I’m forewarning them. If you’re engaged in these practices and you get caught, don’t come later and complain that you have two kids or something else, or you belong to some party or something else. Don’t come and complain about that… If you get caught, you face the consequences!” Jagdeo had said.

Another issue the government will be seeking to address during this review process is the delay in processing payments for contractors, who have completed their respective jobs. The Vice President had said many of these contractors complain that they have obligations such as bank loans that they are unable to pay when payments from the State are held up.

Already, President Dr Irfaan Ali has informed his Cabinet Ministers about this review process and instructed them to ensure that their respective procurement systems, as well as payment systems, are examined.

This announcement of a review of the public procurement system comes on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding the award of an $865 million contract to Tepui Group, for the construction of a pump station at Belle Vue, West Bank Demerara (WBD).

Only last month, Jagdeo announced that stringent measures against agencies deviating from standard bidding protocols will be in place.

This stern warning follows some controversy over the $2.1 billion contract awarded to Kares Engineering Inc. for the construction of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Wharf.

Jagdeo defended the decision, asserting that Kares Engineering Inc. secured the contract as the lowest bidder in a competitive tender process overseen by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). According to Jagdeo, NPTAB’s adherence to the standard bidding document was lawful and justified.

Speaking at a media briefing at Freedom House, Jagdeo had stressed the importance of uniformity in procurement procedures: “There is a standard bidding document that should be used by every single government entity.”

NPTAB recently issued a statement clarifying the circumstances surrounding the contract award. The procurement process for the construction project involved a public tender where bids were evaluated independently, with Kares Engineering Inc. emerging as the lowest responsive bidder.

However, controversy arose when Correia & Correia Ltd. contested the decision in March 2024, citing outdated criteria in their bid review request. Jagdeo dismissed these claims, underscoring that any deviation from the approved Standard Bidding Document could open doors to corruption within government agencies.