PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform For the Press Conference on Thursday June 26, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
BAD FAITH EVIDENT FROM GOVERNMENT’S ATTIDUDE TO PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REFORM:
The PNCR remains determined to prevent the government from continuing to undermine public confidence in the integrity of the entire public procurement system, because of its own narrow partisan political and corrupt interests. We intend to work relentlessly and to use every means at our disposal to secure the removal of those objectionable provisions contained in the Procurement Bill 2003, Bill No. 7 of 2003 which the Government railroaded through the National Assembly, instead of referring it to a Special Select Committee as agreed by the Parliamentary Management Committee.
Our Party is irrevocably committed to ensuring that the public procurement of goods and services and the execution of public works are undertaken in a fair, equitable and transparent manner while maintaining competitiveness and cost effectiveness for the public procurement system as a whole. We insist that the use of public funds for public procurement in Guyana should conform to international standards and norms of accountability, transparency and equity. The PNCR, therefore, calls upon the international multilateral and bilateral donor community to insist on a public procurement system for Guyana that guarantees those conditions.
The PNCR is satisfied that the continued display of bad faith, the rampant and unfettered abuses of the public procurement system, coupled with the rapid growth of white-collar crime, narco-trafficking and corruption, over these last ten years, is responsible for the depressed state of the economy, the deteriorated and depressing social conditions, and the widespread public discontent over the state of governance in Guyana.
If the public procurement system is to have integrity and inspire public confidence, the constitutionally designated Public Procurement Commission must be established immediately and be allowed to become functional – enabled to discharge the functions specified by article 212AA (1) of the reformed Constitution, as set out in Act No. 5 of 2001 - in the shortest possible time to supervise the installation of fundamentally reformed new institutional arrangements. In this regard, we are concerned at the attempts by the PPP/C to stymie the expeditious, transparent and fair discharge of the responsibility of the Public Accounts Committee of National Assembly for the selection of five (5) Commissioners - of integrity and who could withstand public scrutiny - for the Public Procurement Commission who satisfy the conditions stipulated by article 212X (1) of the Constitution, viz.
The Public Procurement Commission shall consist of five members who shall have expertise and experience in procurement, legal, financial and administrative matters.
Article 212X (2) of the constitution directs that:
The President shall appoint the members of the Commission after such members have been nominated by the Public Accounts Committee and approved by not less than two-thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly.
The key provisions of the Procurement Bill, Bill No. 7 of 2003 are intended to usurp the constitutionally mandated functions of the Public Procurement Commission by the establishment of a National Procurement and Tender Administration (the NPTA) under the control and direction of the Minister of Finance through a National Board. It is evident that the objective of the PPP/C is to convert the Public Procurement Commission, a body which the constitution mandates to ensure that public tendering is conducted fairly and transparently, into its poodle.
The attitude and behaviour of the representatives of the Government indicate that they have only been paying lip service to the achievement of compromise and consensus and the “building of trust” among stakeholders in Guyana. Their refusal to submit the Procurement Bill, Bill No.7 of 2003, to a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly has breached the spirit of:
• The Constitutional reform process;
• The Communiqué of 2003 May 6 (see 1.2.2 of the Communiqué); and
• The decision of the Parliamentary Management Committee that all complex and/ or controversial Bills would be referred to a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly.
The demands of the PNCR remain the same: that public procurement legislation, and the entire national tender boards system, must genuinely adhere to the principles of equity, transparency and independence. Any action on the part of anyone to undermine the achievement of these objectives must cease or be reversed.
To ensure we realize our demands, the Party has taken the following actions in its first phase of operations:
1. Last week, the Party wrote the World Bank and other IFIs, pointing out the attempts of government through the procurement legislation to further abuse the system. We also requested to meet with these institutions and have already met with two of them. This process will continue locally and internationally;
2. The PNCR Leader has written to President Jagdeo, on Wednesday 2003 June 25, indicating that the PNCR considers his government’s attitude on the procurement issue a blatant disregard for the basic tenets of good governance and for the spirit of the constructive engagement process between the two Parties. In addition, he has drawn the President’s attention to the unacceptability of the gross misrepresentation of our Party’s position and commitments by Minister Nadir and the Head of the Presidential Secretariat.
3. The Party plans a public education and awareness programme commencing in the new week to enable Guyanese to understand the procurement issue and hear the views of other stakeholders on this important issue.
EQUITABLE ACCESS TO THE STATE-OWNED MEDIA:
The PNCR wishes to make the public aware of the agreements which exist between the PNCR and PPP/C on the matter of broadcasting and equitable access to the state-owned media.
The Dialogue Committee on Radio Monopoly and Non Partisan Boards was tasked with the following objectives:
1. To establish a non-partisan broadcast authority with wide regulatory powers to guide the evolution of all broadcasting in Guyana
2. To put in place legislation which would guide the broadcast sector in general and the work of the broadcast authority in particular.
3. To reform the control of the state owned broadcast sector by the appointment of boards of management along lines agreed by the joint committee.
4. To create an environment where broadcasting is an open sector with wide private sector participation.
5. To create an environment which would support the improvement of standards in broadcasting.
The Committee agreed to:
Establish a non-partisan broadcast authority with wide regulatory powers to guide the evolution of all broadcasting in Guyana.
Put in place legislation which would guide the broadcast sector in general and the work of the broadcast authority in particular.
Reform the control of the state owned broadcast sector by the appointment of boards of management along lines agreed by the joint committee.
Create an environment where broadcasting is an open sector with wide private sector participation.
Create an environment which would support the improvement of standards in broadcasting.
The government has an obligation, both to the principles of democratic governance and the establishment of some semblance of a reputation for good faith, to honour the agreement and recommendations of the Committee.
The PNCR noted that though the government promised to draft the recommended legislation, and committed itself in the Communiqué to have the Draft ready within two months for discussion, the Party has not yet been consulted nor have we been given access to any of the draft legislation. This is not a good indication for the development of a consensus on this important legislation. We, therefore, hope that this is not a prelude to escape from the undertakings of the Communiqué and the demonstration of more bad faith as evidenced in the manner in which the Public Procurement legislation was rushed through the Parliament.
The blatant use of the state media, GTV, by Mr. Manzoor Nadir to misrepresent the issues surrounding the Procurement Bill in the GTV programme “Let’s Talk”, is reprehensible. In accordance with the provisions of the Communiqué with regards to equitable time on the state media for Parliamentary Parties, the PNCR wrote the Management of GTV demanding equitable time to respond on that issue.
GTV initially accepted that the programme was one-sided and had orally agreed to the PNCR’s right to reply. Regrettably, however, the PNCR received a formal communication from Mr. Sattaur late yesterday, indicating that Nadir was not speaking as a Member of Parliament but as a representative of the government, and by inference, the PNCR had no right of reply. This is, however, evident that President Jagdeo and the PPP/C are again about to breach the letter and spirit of the Communiqué.
The PNCR draws the public’s attention to this dangerous development and warns that it will not stand idly by and allow the spirit of the Communiqué to be constantly violated.
GOVERNMENT’S DEAFENING SILENCE OVER EXPORT OF COCAINE IN LOGS:
It has been over two weeks since the British Police discovered a large quantity of cocaine concealed in a consignment of timber from Guyana. The nature of the concealment suggests that specialized equipment was used, a clear indication of a highly organized, well-financed and sustained endeavour of organized crime.
The negative impact this episode has had on the country in general and the timber industry in particular cannot be overstated. This situation is exacerbated by Government’s lack of action. To date there is no official disclosure as to the urgency or the extent of local investigations. There are all the signs of a cover up, as even the names of the consignees, a relatively easy fact to establish from shipping records, remain a highly guarded secret.
The PNCR views with great suspicion the efforts by the Government to shroud this matter in secrecy. We believe that the public has a right to know. The attempt by the Government to deny the public this information only fuels public speculation and suspicion. This situation clearly begs the questions:
Is the Government or Government Officials or persons closely associated with or related to senior functionaries of the Government connected to this crime?
Why is the Government keeping this information secret?
The PNC Reform has noted the recent spate of drug related incidents in which people close to the Government are involved. The Party has also noted evidence that the Government has been in collaboration with criminal enterprises, known to be deeply involved in narco-trafficking, for the formation of the infamous Phantom Squad. The “search and destroy” approach of the Squad is a trademark of organized drug-related crime
The PNCR considers this collaboration as highly dangerous since it has compromised the State. No self-respecting Government would allow itself to be indebted to criminal enterprises. It is only a Government which itself or its officials are involved would countenance such a situation. The Government’s collaboration with known drug barons and their attempt to cover up the “cocaine in timber bust” are clear indications of a link between the PPP/C and criminal enterprise.
The PNC Reform condemns the PPP/C Government for its improper and illegal association with drug cartels and drug barons and wishes to warn the administration that there is no place in a democracy for political parties that are involved in or connected to narco-trafficking and other forms of criminality.
ISSUES FROM THE REGIONS:
The PNCR has learnt with dismay that many of the laudable plans announced by the Minister of Finance in his Budget Speech for the Regions in 2003 may never be a reality. Many of the Regional Democratic Councils which had submitted plans and had been led to believe that finance would have been provided in the Budget for their implementation this year, have now been informed that all the funds stated in the Budget would not now be available.
In Region #4 alone, in one section of the Budget some $14 million will be withdrawn. It is evident that this unilateral withdrawal of funds without consultation is bound to affect the Region’s ability to implement the programme which they promised the people in the regions.
PNCR will provide more details on this trend which will definitely undermine the system of local democracy.
THE WILTON PARK CONFERENCE 2003 JULY 7-10:
The PNCR has been informed of the postponement of the Wilton Park Conference scheduled to be held from July 7-10, 2003 under the sponsorship of the British Government.
The PNCR had previously accepted the invitation to attend and had already identified its representatives to participate. The PNCR felt that its participation in the proposed Conference would have provided a useful opportunity to present its views on the way forward for Guyana. More particularly however, the Party believes that it would have provided a useful opportunity to benefit from the ideas of others who may not have been directly involved in the process and whose objective views could be taken into account in building a national consensus.
The attitude of the PPP/C is not surprising and fit into their historical response in dealing with meaningful consultation and entertaining views and suggestions which do not emanate from within the ranks of the PPP/C.
The excuse proffered by the PPP/C for their unwillingness to participate are hypocritical since it was President Jagdeo and the PPP/C who had approached the British to lend assistance in helping to resolve the political impasse which existed in Guyana. It is therefore strange that they would now object to the continuing process of finding a solution to the problems of Guyana. The PNCR is of the view that the signing of the Communiqué of May 6th had created the condition for there to have been the exchange of ideas in an environment free from hostility where the views of all could have been objectively considered. But alas, it is clear that the tiger has not lost its spots. The PPP/C continues to believe in and practice the politics of domination and discrimination.
It is to be hoped that the temporary reduction in tension which resulted from the signing of the Communiqué has not deceived President Jagdeo or the PPP/C into believing that all is well. The Communiqué, by no stretch of imagination, can replace the need for a permanent solution which must include executive power sharing
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday June 26, 2003
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