Attorney General Reginald Armour is facing heavy criticism again.
This time from the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry.
The JCC, in a release on Thursday, said it is appalled by Attorney General Armour’s June 22nd statements, in parliament, about the delay in operationalization of The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, 2015.
The organization claimed that the Attorney General sought to placate the public about the delay with the following statement: ‘Prime Minister, the Honorable Dr Keith Rowley, has been driving the work of the Cabinet during the period of the many amendments to this legislation and efforts to refine and make the legislation workable.
The JCC, however, was not impressed by the statement, claiming that, "The AG provided only excuses for the non-operationalization of the Office of the Procurement Regulation with no stated deadlines for addressing the concerns that he listed via eleventh-hour consultation with the Judiciary.”
On Wednesday, the Attorney General claimed the public procurement act has not yet been proclaimed because the judiciary raised concerns over the authority about the Office of Procurement Regulation, separation of powers and insufficient assurance of due process.
JCC President Khan criticized Chief Justice Archie for the judiciary’s position, saying he ought to be embarrassed to state that the judiciary is mindful of obligations as a public body, but that its procurement unit remains unstaffed.
“Whose responsibility is this, if not the CJ’s?” he asked.
“So why is the Chief Justice (Judiciary) now commenting on the legislation? We cannot believe that they were not part of the consultation process since 2017.”
The JCC said the inability of the government to implement procurement reform is a direct reflection of its lack of commitment to transparency, accountability and value for money when spending public funds.
“Hiding now behind this new stated excuse, that they are acting responsibly, is an indictment on their performance in public office. We, therefore, call again on the Prime Minister to address these matters that are allegedly keeping back the full proclamation of the legislation before the next budget is read in parliament,” the JCC said.
“It is our considered opinion that if various state agencies, including the Judiciary, cannot get their house in order for responsible procurement practice after all the hard work done by the OPR since 2017, then these agencies should not be spending public money.”
JCC President Khan wondered why the country is still in this position despite Prime Minister Rowley’s insistence that he is committed to procurement reform.
He claimed that the PM’s subordinates have been playing games under his leadership.
“It is clear that all these state entities, that spend public money, want to continue to do so without independent oversight from the OPR. They and their line ministers are happy with the status quo that reeks of inefficiency and corruption. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to accept that he is serious about eradicating corruption in this country against this backdrop of ball dropping,” President Khan said.
The Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry is comprised of five member professional organizations: the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association, The Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects, the Trinidad and Tobago Society of Planners and the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad and Tobago.