Office of Public Procurement chairman Moonilal Lalchan.

One of the more contentious amendments to the Procurement Act had softened contractor bid-rigging so that it was not a criminal act. However, procurement regulator Moonilal Lalchan said his office made an immediate recommendation to Government to change this amendment.

The head of the Office of Public Procurement made the comment during a Special General Meeting of the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) yesterday, where he discussed the controversial Procurement Bill with the TTTI members.

“We had to recommend changes to that, and that is one of the changes that you saw,” Lalchan, a special guest speaker at the event, said.

Another of the OPP recommendations was the lengthening of hearing procedures from 20 days to 30 days.

“All our recommendations were taken on board and put in amendments,” Lalchan said.

Lalchan, however, said his office made no recommendation to amend the contentious Section 7.2.

Section 7.2 was amended to exempt government-to-government contracts from scrutiny.

“Those were not our recommendations and we are on record stating quite clearly that we are in support of the civil society groups not to change those parts of the legislation,” Lalchan said.

Lalchan said even with the amendment to Section 7.2, it is still dependent on what is compliant with Section 29.

“All suppliers and contractors have to be in compliance with Section 29 and so do all government-to-government, international lending agreements and also technical corporations. So it still requires that you have to state that they are in compliance with Section 29, which is very rigorous,” he said.

Clause 7 of the bill will amend section 29 to expand the prohibition on directors and officers of, and individuals, employed with producers and suppliers, to ensure that those persons have not been convicted within the past three years of corruption or fraud-related offences locally or internationally.

“Even though it was watered-down to some extent, there is still some rated reporting requirements,” Lalchan said.

He also said his office had completed a set of 12 regulations since November last year and despite the Government-led changes to the procurement legislation, those regulations remained in the same format.

“Nothing has changed from November 13 when we sent it to the Minister of Finance to today, those are the same regulations that have been on our website,” Lalchan said.

“So what I am saying is what you may have heard, that November, October this year, we prepared those regulations, it has not changed since November 2019.”

In a brief telephone interview after his presentation to the group, Lalchan explained to Guardian Media that those regulations presented since last year gives details on how specific groups should function.

“It puts a lot of detail on the quorum and when they meet and how they deliberate. The regulations are really to support the major act,” he said.

Lalchan said there were 12 sets of regulations to support different aspects of the act.

“It is subsidiary legislation,” he said.

Lalchan said there are still enough regulations to deal with emergency purchases or specialist type of services.

“What we did, we did research into what is a good practice and the best practice we found internationally was in Botswana and we recommended that model,” he said.