New Public Procurement Commission members appointed
President Irfaan Ali yesterday appointed four of the five members of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and emphasised the crucial role of oversight of the public procurement process as Guyana has embarked on a transformation phase.
Financial Analyst Joel Bhagwandin, former High Commissioner to Canada Rajnarine Singh, and Diana Rajkumar, former Personal Assistant to the Minister of Public Security and Berkeley Wickham, former Head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board were the nominees who were sworn in yesterday at the Office of the President.
The fifth nominee, attorney Pauline Chase, who was said to be out of the country, is expected to be sworn in by next Wednesday.
The appointments come almost three months shy of three years since the term of the previous commission came to an end. In that time, the PPP/C government has awarded contracts for mega infrastructural projects across the country.
Ali, in a brief address to the new members, said the PPC adds another tier of institutional mechanisms to promote transparency and open governance, thereby ensuring oversight over public financing and public procurement.
“The job of the Public Procurement Commission is one that adds to that tier of institutional mechanisms that we have established as a country to ensure oversight of public financing, in this case, oversight of procurement, so that whatever we do falls under the umbrella of transparent democratic and open governance,” Ali said.
The nominees received the needed two-thirds majority approval from the National Assembly back in April.
The commission will function for three years. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman for the commission will be elected by the commissioners at their first meeting.
During the swearing in, Ali told the commissioners that their work requires collective effort and constructive thinking.
The president went on to say that with each commissioner holding unique skills, with their combined experience, knowledge and diverse expertise, he was confident they will add value to their work and bring necessary benefits to government’s systems and the country by extension.
“Your role and responsibility cannot be understated. That is why there are specific skillsets that are required and that the Constitution speaks to in relation to the members of the Public Procurement Commission,” he said.
“This Government has embarked on a development path that is transformative. Important to that transformation are issues of public accountability, transparency, and ensuring that institutional mechanisms and systems that allow the public expenditure to occur are not only strong but that they’re continually renewed in an effort to advance and enhance transparency and accountability,” he underscored.
There has been no PPC since October of 2020 and billions of dollars’ in public works contracts have been awarded in the intervening period.
The Constitution provides that, “Subject to paragraph (2), members of the Commission shall be appointed for three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment, for one other term of office, not earlier than three years after the end of their first term. (2) Of those members first appointed, two shall hold office for four years.”
The first PPC was established in October 2016, which was more than 13 years after the Constitution was amended to cater for the procurement oversight body.
The life of that Commission ended in October 2019 but then-President David Granger intervened, extending the tenures of two commissioners by one year to facilitate the transition period.
The first members were Carol Corbin, Sukrishnalall Pasha, Emily Dodson, Ivor English and former Minister of Labour Nanda Kishore Gopaul. Corbin, a former project management professional and accountant with decades of experience working at the CARICOM Secretariat, was elected Chairperson of the Commission.
During the absence of the body, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Jermaine Figueira had said many persons have been complaining of ill-treatment in the procurement process.
On one occasion Figueira had pointed out given the importance of the constitutional body it was unfair that its reconstitution had been delayed. He added that as Chairman of the PAC, many persons have expressed their dissatisfaction to him that the commission has not been functioning.
The simple swearing ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d), Mark Phillips, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira, members of the Public Accounts Committee and relatives of the newly sworn-in Commissioners.