By Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

Is APNU+AFC paying the Procurement Commissioners to remain quiet?
Given the enormity and frequency of corrupt deals that APNU+AFC has burdened Guyana with, suspicion abounds that the non-functioning Procurement Commissioners have been de-fanged, kept happily slurping a sumptuous bucket of soup, while corruption wildly germinates in every public sector in Guyana.

These honorable men and women are not intentionally splurging on Guyanese taxpayers with their approximately $US5,000 per month salary. Even as national outrage grows in a frenzy of corrupt deals, the Commissioners who have so far received a staggering $25M since their appointment remain inactive because they have no staffing.

APNU+AFC has been, at best, slothful in providing an enabling environment or, at worst, sabotaging the work of the Procurement Commission. Whatever the reason, the grave suspicion is that APNU+AFC is paying the commissioners while conveniently sidelining them in order to retain Cabinet’s influence on procurement.

The Procurement Commission is a statutory commission provided for by Article 212W of the Constitution and enshrined by enabling legislation in 2003. It took almost 14 years to establish the Commission because the Public Accounts Committee which was chaired by the PNC and APNU could not agree on the nominees. There is enough blame to go around for this. But APNU+AFC had sworn that they would have an active Procurement Commission within 100 days in Government. After swearing in the commission into office in October 2015, the Commissioners remain inactive. Incidentally, whether the commission is allowed to do its work or not, the Commissioners alone will cost Guyana’s taxpayers almost $75M in 2017 and it is likely the Commission will cost over $150M annually to operate.

Under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), Guyana adopted an amended constitution in 2000 that provided for a Procurement Commission to reduce Cabinet’s role in approving contracts. By 2006, the PPP Cabinet was no longer approving contracts, having given up that role by law. Cabinet was only engaged in providing a No-Objection. In the No-Objection arrangement, Cabinet received the recommendation of the Tender Board for contracts above $15M and provided their No-Objection. In rare cases where the Cabinet had any concern about the Tender Board’s decision, Cabinet sent it back to the Tender Board outlining its concerns. The Tender Board having examined Cabinet’s concerns could send back its recommendation unchanged or amended and Cabinet was bound to accept.

We should not be shocked that APNU+AFC is actively delaying and deferring action by the Procurement Commission. This is an administration whose leader, President Granger, defended APNU+AFC in 2016 by insisting that too much attention is paid to government corruption while there is more private sector corruption.

APNU+AFC’s Goebel, Raphael Trotman, lectured us that people who made political donations to APNU+AFC were making business investment and they reasonably expect rewards in the form of contracts and the government has an obligation to meet those expectations. Joe Harmon, Granger’s right hand man, define special privileges given to the donors as honorific. APNU+AFC has a propensity to rationalize corruption because this is their DNA.

In the meanwhile, there is a frenzied rush to share national assets to their friends and donors. The list of corrupt deals is frighteningly and nauseating long. The Parking Meter Contract maybe the evil child of the Mayor and City Council, but APNU+AFC is completely complicit in its execution. The medical warehouse fiasco is still alive where Guyanese taxpayers are doling out more than $15M per month for a house in which a few pills are stored while the Ministry of Health’s warehouse is half empty. The deal to privatize Skeldon Factory is caught in a web of corruption. In the meanwhile secret deals are being worked out to give away Enmore Packaging plant. More than $100M in contracts were dished out to friends and supporters for forensic audits without any tender. Non-tendered contracts are the new norm, rather than the exception. Sweetheart deals abound in public corporations like GWI and CH&PA. Every day, small and large secret deals are made. There is a reason why the procurement commission is alive but de facto in a coma. APNU+AFC is splurging without restraint with taxpayers money.