There will be strong fines up to $5 million and jail sentences up to ten years for crimes in procurement legislation such as bid-rigging and blacklisting, says Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.
Tewarie piloted the long-awaited Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill 2014 on Tuesday at the Senate sitting, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre in Port of Spain.
The minister highlighted some of the crimes that can attract a fine and jail sentence, among them collusion, as well as voiding of procurement contracts and also making false reports.
Hailing the legislation as landmark, Tewarie said the bill proposes to establish an independent national agency whose primary responsibility is to have oversight, set rules, investigate and enforce the terms and conditions aligned in the bill.
Tewarie said all public sector institutions, without exception, including government-to-government arrangements and every single State-controlled institution, will fall under the bill’s purview.
“So what we have done is removed in this bill the biggest loopholes in the process of public procurement,” said Tewarie, adding that any further loopholes, if pointed out, will be taken into account as well.
He said the legislation gives insulation from the political process and also gives the procurement regulator a certain amount of independence and autonomy.
Tewarie stressed that Government did not get up one morning and write the bill, that it came after an extensive period of work before a Joint Select Committee (JSC) and consultations with persons and experts, here and abroad.
He said Jamaica’s contractor general, representatives from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) were all consulted on the legislation and having it on par to international standards.
Tewarie said with the legislation, there is decentralised procurement but with centralised oversight, and this builds flexibility in the system so that procuring bodies can exercise their freedom to procure.
He said the procurement regulator would be mandated to report to Parliament and all documents laid in the House would be made public.
Tewarie said the legislation was not draconian but strong law and people will have the right to access the courts if they feel aggrieved.
In addition, he said a central repository will be established where every potential beneficiary will be required to submit information on their company and company history, to which the public will have access.
He said companies can be called on to account by the procurement regulator, so there would not be a case of false information being submitted.
The bill, said Tewarie, will bring about an ethical system and good governance, which will lead to sustainable development.
He said the regulations for the bill will be made by the procurement regulator and are to be submitted to the Finance Minister who will then bring them to Parliament.