|Proper Procurement Practice
Published Thursday 6th October 2011
Last week this column
addressed the imperative of controlling State expenditure as an element
in the national budgeting process. I made the point that a new Public
Procurement system needs to come into effect to give us the tools to
control these huge expenditures.
The Ministry of
Planning & the Economy (MPE) published a Request for Proposals
(RFP) at the end of August for the development of Invader's Bay, a
70-acre parcel of State-owned reclaimed land – shown in this plan -
The Invader’s Bay lands are absolutely prime property – flat, waterfront
land with easy access to highways and all the urban infrastructure of
water, electricity and sewers. These are valuable public lands, with an
estimated value of at least $1.0Bn.
That RFP invited
proposals with a closing-date of 4th October, which is an
entirely inadequate 6 weeks. The Joint Consultative Council for the
Construction Industry (JCC) has taken a strong position against that RFP
process, including writing the MPE and meeting with Ministers Tewarie
and Cadiz – readers can refer to
The JCC wants work for
its members, but that must be after a proper process, it is not our
intention to stop any particular project
The JCC wants a proper
The first official
response to our publicity was an
article in the Newsday of Monday 3rd October - 'Cadiz:
JCC jumped the gun', the leading point being that the government was
trying to open-up the procurement process so as to invite suitable
Cadiz is reported to
have said “…What the Government has done is asked interested parties
for proposals for concepts,” he said. “I don’t see that there is
any issue at all. There were proposals made and the Government felt that
this is public land and we should open it up and we gave people six
weeks, we feel that is enough time…”
Public Procurement can
be described as the process which results in the spending or earning of
‘Public Money’. Public Money is money which due to or payable by the
State, or any debts for which the State is ultimately liable. Therefore
Public Money must include the contracts entered into by the State as
well as the disposal, by sale or otherwise, of State assets. The
Invader’s Bay RFP is the start of a large-scale Public Procurement
process, since its stated intention is to lease land to developers who
make ‘suitable proposals’.
The publication of the
RFP and those statements all give the impression that a proper
procurement process is underway at Invader’s Bay.
Nothing could be
further from the truth. Let me explain.
The first step in the
Procurement cycle is the ‘Needs Identification’. The two main questions
in the case of Invader’s Bay would be –
- What do we want to do with this property? That must also
include ones assumptions as to what uses are not desirable there.
- Why do we want to do these things?
For example, the answer
to the ‘What’ question could be that the property would be used for
recreation or parkland. The answer to the ‘Why’ question could be
either for private profit or to create new recreational facilities as a
‘public good’, those being free facilities which increase the amenity of
a district or city. The Brian Lara Promenade and the San Fernando Hill
facility are two examples of that.
Without a Needs Assessment it is impossible to objectively assess what
is a ‘suitable project’. To carry out a Needs Assessment, it would have
been necessary for the MPE to have consulted widely with the public and
stakeholders. The Invader’s Bay lands are in our capital and are about
one-third the size of the Queen’s park Savannah. My point being that
any proper Needs Assessment must involve substantial public and
There has been no consultation whatsoever. None.
What is even more unacceptable is that the RFP, which was published by
the Ministry of Planning & the Economy, is silent as to the 3 existing
strategic plans for the Port-of-Spain area. All of those plans paid for
with Public Money. A straight case of - ‘nearer to Church, further
So, how are the proposals to be assessed? How will the decisions be
At para 3.5 of the RFP, at ‘Project Assessment’, we read – “Proposals
will be scored using the “Invader’s Bay Development Matrix and Criteria
We asked for that
document when we met with the Ministers, but were told that it would be
completed after the closing-date.
In the absence of these
rules, how can developers know the ingredients of a winning proposal?
Given that the evaluation rules are due to be completed after the
closing-date, how can we be sure that this is a transparent process?
This could be an
opportunity to demonstrate best-practice for public procurement, as
promised by the People’s Partnership.
What is happening here
is a recipe for accusations, blunders and confusion, just like in the
previous decades of ‘old politics’. All the ingredients for corruption
are present and that is why the JCC has made this call for the immediate
withdrawal of this deeply-flawed RFP and its revision, after wide
We need to move away
from the pattern of the biggest projects being set-up in secret , so
that by the time the public gets to hear about it, all the vital details
precedence over proper process has long been a costly constant in the
governance of our society.
We must do better and
it is not too late to do the right thing.
Expenditure of Public money –
Accountability – Transparency = CORRUPTION
Criticisms by Cadiz
It is instructive to consider the
criticisms of the JCC which were reportedly made by Cadiz.
The headline accused the JCC of
‘jumping the gun’, implying undue haste and thoughtless speed. Cadiz is
quoted as saying - “…I think the JCC jumped the gun,” he said.
“If you cannot do it by six week then how long? Six months?”.
At another point in the same article,
Cadiz is quoted as saying -
“We need to get these things going,” he said. “The JCC only
made representation of their disappointment four weeks into the RFP…”.
The implication being that the JCC were tardy and should have acted more
If this Invader’s Bay situation were
not so serious, it would be comical. The question in my mind is ‘Which
of those explanations does Minister Cadiz believe?’
What seems clear is the hostility with which the Minister views the
intervention of the JCC.
Afra Raymond is President of the Joint Consultative Council for the
Construction Industry (JCC) and Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre