The Joint Consultative Council (JCC) takes this opportunity to remind the Finance Minister of his 2015 election promise, repeated in 2020 with respect to operationalising procurement legislation.

The minister is acutely aware that the Office of the Procurement Regulator (OPR) is costing this country approximately $17 million annually, with no benefit.

Without proclamation of the procurement regulations, taxpayers are paying $17 million per annum for a watchdog that has been chained to the financial towers in Port of Spain since 2017.

While we cannot control the international impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, nor the falling revenues in the oil and gas sector, we do have control over how we manage ourselves, especially as it relates to the spending of public funds.

In particular, we at the JCC know this country would benefit substantially from procurement legislation in the medium term. The construction industry accounts for 5.6 per cent of GDP, or approximately TT$9.3 billion.

Haemorrhaging of public funds through inefficiency and corruption in the procurement of goods and services by State agencies has gone unabated since our Independence in 1962.

Corruption is now endemic at all levels of society, and as it relates to public procurement practices only legislation can drive change.

The OPR needs to be unleashed from its Government-imposed kennel of emasculation so that it can do the job for which citizens are paying.

We simply cannot afford to continue to make another budget, where the expenditure side of the equation allows for elaborate institutionalised wastage through corruption and inefficiency.

Fazir Khan

president, Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry

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