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Minister of Finance Colm Imbert

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert has slammed absurd suggestions being posed to the Government as the debate on the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Bill, 2020 get underway yesterday.

Piloting debate on the bill, Minister Imbert responded to criticisms raised in media editorials and by the Opposition, stating that their commentary had not been grounded in proper research of the law’s development.

“Taking out five per cent of the bill, and leaving 95 per cent of it is not gutting it,” said Imbert.

The Minister of Finance also detailed the timeline of meetings between the office of the procurement regulator, the office of the attorney general and the legislative review committee for the past six months, as he sought to deny claims that the Government had been dragging its feet with regard to bringing the bill before Parliament.

Directly addressing the claim that the removal of specific clauses which would allow for government to government transactions would weaken the bill and open the door for corruption, the Finance Minister explained that the government already has a significant level of accountability.

“The government of Trinidad and Tobago should have the flexibility to negotiate that contract with the government of China or any other sovereign government in the best interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and its absurd to demand that an arrangement with a foreign government must be administered by a non-elected person,” he said, “We are accountable to the Parliament and it is, we will account to the Parliament.”

Minister Imbert also rubbished the stance that the lowest bid should automatically be chosen.

“ Is it really being told to us and to the national community that if the government of Trinidad and Tobago requires legal services we must put it out to tender so that Ramdeen and Ramlogan will win the bid because they will be the lowest bidder?” he said, adding that all situations would require certain assessments.

“It would be an absurdity if legal and medical services were subject to tender to be given to the lowest bidder,” he said.

The minister explained that for the first time, with the amendment, the high court could also get involved in matters of public procurement.

“We will open the door for an aggrieved contractor or supplier to approach the court and ask for a contract,” the Minister of Finance said.