Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP, during her contribution to debate on the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Image courtesy Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP says that the Government has paved the way for more corruption in this country by passing less than rigorous procurement legislation.

The Opposition Leader’s comment comes as the world observes International Anti-Corruption Day today, Wednesday 9 December 2020.

In her message in commemoration of the day, Mrs Persad-Bissessar remarks that under her tenure as Prime Minister, her administration had passed “comprehensive procurement legislation meant to end State corruption once and for all”.

She maintains that what was passed in the Senate on Tuesday this week, is a severely butchered version of that law, “rendering it toothless” and making Government’s operations even less transparent than before..

The full text of the statement from the Opposition Leader, follows…

MESSAGE FROM THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, THE HONOURABLE KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR SC MP, ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY 2020

Kamla: Passage of Procurement Amendment Bill a macabre irony

Today, as the world marks International Anti-Corruption Day, it is a macabre irony that on the eve of this important day, the PNM government butchered the long-awaited Procurement law paving the way for corruption.

The government I led created and passed comprehensive procurement legislation meant to end State corruption once and for all. This legislation was a genuine turning point in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.

After six years of failing to fully enact this legislation, the current PNM government has now gutted the Procurement Act, rendering it toothless and implanting exemptions that would increase the opaque nature of the Government’s procurement practices. The amended legislation was passed in the Senate on Tuesday 8th December 2020.

Under this PNM government, we have witnessed two top government Ministers having to recuse themselves from cabinet meetings a grand total of 92 times between them – almost two years’ worth of meetings- due to state contracts being awarded to their relatives. This is obscene and unacceptable.

There is also the still unresolved matter pertaining to the fake oil scandal involving the now-defunct Petrotrin Oil refinery.

The United Nations has noted that crises such as the one presented by the COVID-19 pandemic can create opportunities for corruption, as governments seek emergency sources of funding for relief efforts.

This government has used the pandemic as an excuse for drawing down from the Heritage and Stabilization Fund and seeking billions of dollars in loans for its COVID-19 relief efforts.  The Prime Minister himself feebly attempted to justify the removal of scrutiny of Government-to-Government arrangements from the Procurement Regulator because it would “tie the government’s hands.”

Under this PNM government Trinidad and Tobago continues to slide down the International Corruption Perception Index, with a lowly rank of 85.

The PNM has never been serious about increasing transparency and accountability in government.  While the international community presses for strengthening of oversight bodies in order to “RECOVER with INTEGRITY”, this government is doing the opposite.

We echo the call by the UN and other organizations that we need to stand #UnitedAgainstCorruption.  

The Opposition United National Congress will continue to fight to hold this Rowley-led administration accountable to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.