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Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has slammed Government’s upcoming move to remove legal, financial, accounting, auditing and medical services from scrutiny of the Procurement Act.

Government is expected to lay amendments to the act in Parliament tomorrow.

Persad-Bissessar and the UNC recently challenged Government to bring the procurement amendments if Government wanted UNC’s support on the Anti-Gang Bill.

Last week Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the amendments were to be approved by Cabinet and then laid in Parliament.

The Procurement Act was passed in December 2014 and partially proclaimed by the People’s Partnership Government in July 2015.

The objectives of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act 2015 were to promote principles of accountability, integrity, transparency and value for money, efficiency, fairness, equity and public confidence, local industry development, sustainable procurement, and sustainable development, in public procurement and the disposal of public property.

Persad- Bissessar said, “For the past five years, there’s been no attempt by this Government to make any moves to operationalise this legislation. After repeated calls by the Opposition and civil society, this Government failed to fully proclaim the legislation.”

“They intend to amend the legislation a third time. Government will move an amendment to the Act to extract the teeth out of the legislation, leaving it without any bite at curbing corruption.”

“The Government intends to amend Section 7 of the Procurement Act to remove from the scrutiny of the Act, the following services: legal, financial, accounting and auditing, medical services and any other service as the Minister may by Order determine, by negative resolution,” Persad-Bissessar said.

She added, “This PNM government now wants to remove these services and transactions from scrutiny not just of the regulator, but of Parliament as well. What makes this more distasteful and unethical is that we passed this Act in 2014 with a special majority and this Government now proposes to defeat the very object and purpose of this Act by a simple majority vote.

“I call on Government to explain the reason for removing these services from being subject to the Procurement Act. The minister must answer why legal services and medical services are exempt from the Act. Is it because there is a Minister of Government with an interest in a medical company?”

“Is the exemption for the provision of financial services as a result of a Minister of Government’s close ties to a relative that provides financial services to the Government? The Prime Minister as Chairman of the Cabinet must explain the reason for this amendment.”

She said the Procurement Regulator and his team have not yet been given a chance to oversee the procurement practices and disposal of public property, “And they have already been rendered impotent by this Government’s proposed amendments.”

Persad-Bissessar added, “This is the third attempt by this PNM Government to water-down the Procurement Legislation. They again miss an opportunity to bring to the Parliament the necessary Regulations required to operationalise the Act.”

“We oppose this boldfaced tactic by the Rowley regime to demoralise and destabilise our independent institutions and our very democracy.”