The Public Procurement Commission Lacks Leadership and Accountability to tax payers

The “independent” constitutional agency, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) is yet to provide an acknowledgement to my official complaints for contracts investigation, lodged since February 2023. I visited the PPC’s open day last month and requested a meeting with the Chairperson, since I am told that this is the only person who is authorized to speak on the PPC’s behalf. I am also yet to receive a reply to my request for a meeting. One can conclude that the PPC lacks leadership, functionality, and accountability to taxpayers, given that a simple acknowledgement to my official complaints for an investigation of contracts awarded to debarred contractors and contracts flagged by the auditor general have not elicited a response by the PPC, the agency constitutionally mandated to do so. The PPC is therefore not functional in its most important function “to monitor and investigate” contracts awarded, since not one single investigation has been done while billions of dollars are “shared out” through questionable procument procedures which the media has repeatedly carried – none of which the PPC ever bothered to address. A perusal of the PPC’s Facebook page reveals that the current “core” function of the PPC is “training” and not accountability, not transparency and not good governance – the lack of these international indicators certainly aligns with the Facebook claim.

On the open day visit, I met with the competent staff who are knowledgeable in their respective fields, which makes the inaction of this entity even more concerning – why is the PPC is not carrying out one of its most important functions – to investigate and monitor multi- millions/billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and oil revenues? The conclusion is clear – the PPC lacks independence, leadership, and it is playing a “go-slow” tactic so that the work of the PPC is deliberately stalled.

In my previous statement to the press, I referred to the fact that the PPC is seeking external legal advice to find out if it can carry out its function and is engaging the services of a strategically chosen lawyer to the tune of US$4,000 – a blatant disregard for the internal legal team, a waste of taxpayers’ money and a “go-slow” tactic. Further, is the Chairperson saying to taxpayers that Parliament and the President erred in law when they approved, appointed, and swore in the five members of the Commission, under the same constitutional provisions which the Chairperson is now inferring does not allow the Commission to carry out its function?! Even further, is the supreme law of this land, the Constitution Article 212 W and 212 AA which established and mandated the function of the Commission, now null and void? Does this also mean that the Minister of Finance, the Finance Secretary, and the entire Parliament are breaking the law by continuing to provide funds from the treasury to a Commission that legally should not be in existence? It seems so, since the Commission, through the actions of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson, is withholding its core function to investigate and monitor pending the outcome of the legal advice sought – an illogical, go- slow tactic and blatant disregard to transparency and good governance – one which was aptly carried out by the previous Commission under the coalition government!

The PPC lacks leadership and independence, and the well qualified technical staff must be fiddling their fingers, demotivated, and stifled to execute this function, since there is not one single investigation that was carried out by the current PPC – the Annual Report of the PPC will be of much interest to read!

I have highlighted before that the Commission, instead of being occupied with its core constitutional mandate to monitor and investigate, is pre-occupied with the hiring and firing of staff. The revelations from previously fired staff were damming – fired for taking conflicting instructions from the Chairperson versus the CEO – no fault of that employee. Duties assigned to technical staff have been delegated to other staff and also outsourced: the case of the Legal department cited earlier; the Public Relations department’s work is also being outsourced. Is the Public Procurement Commission flouting the procurement laws to outsource services to friends? Previous employees hold the strong view that black employees have been the target of dismissal and non-confirmation of employment. Is this the one Guyana we speak about? Is this the constitutional agency that Parliament and President envisioned to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability to the people of this country? The leadership deficit must be corrected and the PPC technical staff must be empowered to execute its function.