Public Procurement in the Bahamas – Water and Sewage Corporation 

0
1474
Daniel Ferguson

By Daniel S. Ferguson 

I was extremely reluctant to write this article because it’s the “silly season” and at this time whatever one says or do in our polarized political country, you are then labeled with a political party. 

However after much thought I realized that it would be remiss of me as a procurement professional not to educate the Bahamian people about the non-transparent procurement process in this instance used by the Water and Sewage Corporation in the award of a cleaning and maintenance contract and a paining contract to Elite Maintenance Incorporated Ltd. a company whose legal representative and agent was allegedly the then fiancée of the Executive Chairman. Let me borrow a section of the Public Procurement Bill where it clearly states in the following: 

82. Conflicts of interest. 

(1) A person employed in a procuring entity or a member of a tender committee or a member of the Board who has any conflict of interest in any procurement, or a member of the Tribunal who has any conflict of interest in any appeal before the Tribunal shall— (a) disclose his interest as soon as possible after becoming aware of the procurement or of the appeal; and (b) recuse himself from the evaluation and award of the procurement contract or the appeal. 

(2) The disclosure of interest shall be recorded in the records of the procurement or the records of the appeal. 

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) shall apply to technical evaluation advisers and to employees of the Department who provide secretarial services to the Board. 

(4) For the purposes of this section “conflict of interest” means any situation where a person has, directly or indirectly, a financial, economic or other personal interest which might be perceived to compromise their impartiality and independence in the context of the procurement 

I am not arriving at any conclusions here but It is unconscionable for the Executive Chairman of the Water and Sewage Corporation to think that his answer to the media which was “the Board approved the contracts” is sufficient for the Bahamian tax payers. 

He needs to answer the following questions: 

  • • Did the Executive Chairman advise the Board that the bid before them from was actually a company that his then fiancée was involved with as their attorney? 
  • • Did Mr. Gibson recuse himself from the meetings during the final decision to award Elite Maintenance Incorporated Ltd with the two contracts? 
  • • Can the Executive Chairman provide the public with a copy of the Minutes of this meeting? 
  • • Were any payments deposited to Elite Maintenance Incorporated Ltd account where it is alleged that both the Executive Chairman and his then fiancée and legal representative 

of this company are signatories and did he make any withdrawals from that account? 

In early May of 2018 all government Ministries, Agencies departments and state-owned enterprises were advised by the Actg. Financial Secretary that the Cabinet of the Bahamas had mandated that all procurements were to be done on the e-Procurement Supplier Registry. This meant that all request for bids and the award of bids were to be published on the system. 

Unfortunately the Water and Sewage Corporation procurement process for these contracts were flawed from the beginning because no competitive bidding process was engaged, as there were no local advertisement placed in the daily newspapers nor were there any requests for bids made via the eProcurement Supplier registry. 

The General Manager of the Corporation needs to provide the following information to the public: 

  • • Why was a selective bidding process used to request bids for both the maintenance contract and the painting of the water tower? 
  • • How many companies were invited to bid? 
  • • How many bids were received? 
  • • Were these bids sealed and placed in a secure tender box prior to their opening? 
  • • Can the General Manager provide the public with the Minutes of the meeting of the Team that reviewed the bids? 

In my most recent article I admonished the Ministry of Finance to concentrate more on getting the State owned enterprises such BPL, Water and Sewage Corporation and the PHA to utilize the e-Procurement Supplier Registry rather than trying meet a September1 deadline, which will achieve nothing tangible. We have yet to learn the procurement processes that were used to issue contracts to repair our public schools, road repairs, sidewalks and government house, just to name a few. 

I am not going to make any recommendations as to what should or should not happen, however despite the Act not being enacted as yet, it is the responsibility of every senior official, including Board members in government to engage in procurement best practices in its absence and to be transparent in the process. 

Finally, I wish to draw the public’s attention to two sections of the Public Procurement Bill: Section 84 (a) states; 

84. Tampering with records or other documents. 

Any person who— (a) falsifies, destroys, injures, defaces, removes or conceals any record, or document required to be kept under this Act; commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment for five years or to both fine. 

Finally Section 85 (a) and (b) states; 

85. Offence involving collusion. A person who— (a) is involved in or participates in falsifying a bid; or (b) directly or indirectly influences or attempts to influence a procurement in order to obtain an unfair advantage in the award of a procurement contract, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment for five years or to both fine and imprisonment. 

Let’s wait for the enactment of the Act which is said to happen on September 1. Then perhaps some of the persons, including our politicians responsible for the procurement of goods services and works will be more transparent. One must talk less about transparency but rather strive to be transparent.” 

—-END

Mr. Daniel Ferguson, MCIPS, retired Chief Petty Officer, RBDF, Lead Investigator 2004 Lorequin Commission of Inquiry, a former Procurement Officer of the Ministry Health and Ministry of Finance and former Component Coordinator for the IDB sponsored Public Financial Management Reform Project, in particular the Public Procurement Reform. He led the drafting team for the development of the Public Procurement Bill 2021, Public Procurement Regulations assisted with the creation of the University of the Bahamas professional procurement officers training framework and managed the development of the e-Procurement Supplier Registry. He is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply with over 25 years of experience in Public Procurement He was the Caribbean’s representative to the International Network of Public Procurement Officers for the years 2019-2021. A network supported by both the Organization of American States, Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.