Minister of Finance Colm Imbert

One day after members of the private sector/civil society group said they were “deeply disturbed” by the non-operationalisation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Property Act, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said it is expected to be implemented by the end of March.

However, while he said it would be introduced in Parliament “sometime in February”, it will not be in its current form as the government intends to amend section 7.

“What we intend to do is make a slight amendment to this clause so that if the government of Trinidad and Tobago enters into an arrangement with another government for the supply of goods and services and there is a conflict between our procurement rules and their procurement rules, then the procurement rules of the other sovereign state will apply,” he said.

In its current form, the clause states that in these circumstances, “the procurement of goods, works or services shall be governed by this Act and shall promote the socio-economic policies of Trinidad and Tobago and shall adhere to the objects of this Act”.

However, Imbert believes this technicality would prevent the country from accessing concessional financing rates for the development of infrastructure or services when engaging in Government to Government arrangements. He emphasised that this amendment would only kick in “if there is a conflict”.

Citing previous projects such as the Couva Hospital, he explained that whenever these rates are negotiated with the sovereign states, it is, more often than not, the condition that the contractor is from their jurisdiction.

“If this law was in effect, you could not have a Chinese contractor involved in that project because you would have had to open tendering in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Imbert further explained that the main benefits to the country in these types of arrangements are the access to preferential financing rates by way of significantly reduced interest rates and the timely construction of the projects.

Despite the foreign nation’s procurement rules trumping T&T’s, Imbert assured that our Procurement Regulator would still have investigative power in the arrangement.

“The other elements will still be there. The whole question of the Procurement Regulator having the ability to investigate the procurement to determine whether there is value for money and all the other powers of the procurement regulator would still apply,” he said.