James Chang-Kit

Renuka Singh

The deputy chairman of the Office of Public Regulations (OPR) James Chang-Kit has resigned, citing frustration with the elements of the recently passed Public Procurement Bill.

Chang-Kit released a resignation letter yesterday saying the assent of the bill by President Paula-Mae Weekes was the final insult to the office.

The President assented to the bill on December 27.

“The two prior amendments in 2016 and 2017 had an initial damaging effect on the recruitment process for a Regulator and the operation of the parent Act and signalled the Government’s reluctance for proper procurement oversight,” Chang-Kit said.

He said there were “subsequent stalling and stymying” of the OPR’s efforts to have the necessary regulations proclaimed adding that the OPR went through “interminable reviews and subtle attacks brought on by the Government”.

“Via its agents in state enterprises, Minister of Finance and Attorney General both subtle and frontal, underwrote its reluctance for proper oversight of its spending,” he said.

Chang-Kit also took aim at the relative “silence and acquiescence of the society” and said that some members of the OPR board had accepted the fatality of the bill’s passage.

“Some members of our board in accepting this sorry state of affairs in a fast-dwindling and bankrupt economy has driven me to despair and so it is with a heavy heart that I submit my immediate resignation as the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Procurement Regulation,” Chang-Kit concluded.

OPR chairman Moonilal Lalchan said Chang-Kit’s resignation was not a surprise. He said his term was due to end this month.

“I don’t know if he took this opportunity to say he no longer wanted to serve on the board. I won’t say it was surprising or I’m shocked,” Lalchan said.

He said he was not sure what caused the strongly-worded resignation.

“As everything else, the Board is very democratic, we would vote and let everybody ventilate,” Lalchan said.

“We never say everyone has to follow through like what is done in Parliament and debates and so on,” he said.

“People will disagree and we have had very strong opinions on the board which we appreciate, which I as Chairman appreciates,” he said.

He said that the board remains strong despite disagreements on issues.

Moonilal said despite Chang-Kit’s parting shot, the Board was not diminished by the assented bill. He does however want to see the completed bill.

“I cannot say what was on his mind when he issued that letter,” Lalchan said.

“Parliament has a role to play in this country in terms of making laws. Once Parliament has debated those laws and passed relevant laws, we as an organisation are bound by law to follow through on the implementation of the laws. There is a process to follow,” he said.

Lalchan said that the law, as it stands now with the amendments, still leaves the OPR in a position to review and investigate all the issues of Government to Government relationships and the whole issue of the amendment of Section 5 exemptions.

Finance Minister, Colm Imbert tweeted that he had “taken note” of Chang-Kit’s resignation.

“I have taken note of the public resignation of James Chang-Kit as a member and deputy chairman of the Procurement board 26 days before his three-year appointment would have naturally expired on January 30, 2021, with the effluxion of time. I wish him well in his future endeavours,” the minister wrote.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said he found Chang-Kit’s resignation letter to be “curious” and “strongly objected” to his criticisms of the 2016 amendment.

“I wish the gentleman well. I disagree that the previous amendments in 2015 and 2016 emasculated the OPR,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi completely refuted that he sought to undermine the OPR.

“This was no small exercise. Every single procurement from as small as a pen must be open to challenge,” he said.

“Whilst Mr Chang-Kit is free to exercise publicity of his own views, I have of course don’t necessarily share his point of view,” Al-Rawi said.

“I find it quite curious that his letter of resignation refers to the fact of two prior amendments of 2016 and 2017. This is the first time it has ever come into the public domain and I certainly must have a very strong objection to his statement in relation to the 2016 amendment,” he said.