Procurement law under review

Cayman’s Public Procurement Law and its accompanying regulations are under review, according to director of the Cayman Islands Procurement Office Taraq Bashir.

Bashir was testifying before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday when he said that his office was looking into the effectiveness of the legislation.

“We are going through a full review of the Procurement Law, the procurement regulations and the financial regulations with the view to, first of all, identify any improvements and secondly, to iron out any differences and inconsistencies between all those things,” he said.

He told the PAC that a working steering committee, which he also sits on, was established for the review and a draft has already been prepared.

“We have to go through the process of formally presenting that to the Legislative Assembly,” he said.

Bashir, together with Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, faced the PAC as it enquired into the auditor general’s report on government’s use of outsourced services from 2012-2017.

Prospect MLA Austin Harris took aim at the lengthy delay from the passage of the bill in 2016 and the completion of the regulations in 2018 to bring it into force.

Jefferson said it was “certainly not desirable” for such a long period to elapse between the passage of a law and regulations. However, he said, given the nature of the law, a high level of preparedness for civil servants was needed.

“The reason for such a long delay was the level of training required and I remember there was quite a long period of consultation with the private sector in getting their feedback as to what the regulations should contain,” he added.

Bashir explained that the current procurement process promotes value for dollar and better scrutiny, adding that projects of $100,000 and over require a business case and evidence must be provided to establish the need for the expenditure before it is approved.

Bodden Town MLA Chris Saunders questioned the quality of the business cases that are being submitted. He said that the preparation process for business cases needs to be fixed first before the document is sent to the procurement office.

He also asked how the procurement office was managing collusion among bidders who may try to skew the process.

Bashir said his office was mindful of the issue and, under the regulations, if collusion is discovered, bidders will be excluded from the process.

Jefferson said when government’s Bonfire procurement portal was established, 1,900 vendors registered to make themselves available to do services for the government.

He said some 180 procurement opportunities have been placed on Bonfire for the public to subscribe and apply for.

He told committee members that while they do recognise that the present regime is not perfect, it “is an improvement from where we were before”.

Bashir told the committee that his office is still going through a learning and development process, with Cayman in the early stages of the development of proper procurement in the public sector.

To Cayman’s credit, Bashir said, “we are very well advanced in relation to other Caribbean countries in terms of our processes and procedures around the Procurement Law”.

However, he hastened to add, “we are a long way behind with regard to other countries in the world”.