Trinidad & Tobago’s Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said the Caricom Heads of Government Summit cost approximately $9million TT and he said in a nutshell that if he had to wait for the approvals under the law they could not have hosted it. He has started to defend the Government’s decision to permit a three-month exemption governed by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Procurement Act, 2015.
Minister Imbert stated that he did not act alone in circumventing the current procurement legislation process that he acted under cabinet approval and the attorney general’s advice. However, one must ask if this law is in place, passed in parliament and approved already, why bypass your own law to expedite the Caricom Heads of Government Summit’s cost without proper procedures of a law his own Government has proclaimed.
On Sunday last week, MP Saddam Hosein called on Imbert for an explanation on this three-month Order which he used for the exemption from the procurement law, the provision of services for events associated with visits by these Caricom heads. Furthermore, Hosein is stating that it’s illegal since it lacks Parliamentary approvals. One must ask why the matter was not taken to Parliament ahead of time and although the media did ask these questions, Imbert’s response was very feeble insisting that not “every time you are presented with a difficult situation, that you would convene Parliament.” Now after he has broken proper procedure he is claiming there is a need for “a properly thought-out amendment to allow the Government to deal with unforeseen events” which will take some time. How come now? After it was already approved and proclaimed in parliament and took eight years to get it approved?
Further as MP Saddam Hosein implied, does it have some nefarious intentions to use this excuse to get funding and use it for the upcoming Local Government Elections, so there will be no accountability here as well?
Minister Imbert did not give any breakdown of the cost for the entertainment, the security for dignitaries or the cost of hosting the event at the Hyatt, the cost of meals and refreshments for all the guests and many other expenses that I can’t think of at the moment.
The question is not only about the summit, it’s the method used to fund the summit and by passing a law that has been approved by this Government. To continue to pull the wool over the population’s eye, he did not give any information on if Caricom contributed as well and if so, by how much. He gave no breakdown on what was Trinidad and Tobago’s contribution to Caricom for the summit.
The intention of this law cannot be to ultimately allow the minister to make exemptions without parliamentary oversight, which has occurred here. Now less than three months after the Procurement Act was passed, finance Minister Colm Imbert is backtracking and stating there is a need to amend the legislation, which took eight years to enact. What a deception!
The law is to ensure that our scarce public money is safeguarded especially from Ministers or Governments that can spend on contracts where they can somehow receive benefits in some way through family or friends that the public is not aware of. The act was long-overdue to protect the interests of all citizens and should not be bypassed in this way.
There seems to be more in the mortar than the pestle in this one and someone is putting pepper in our rice.