Guidelines for fairness of contract watchdog

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Guidelines are set to be put in place for the government’s watchdog of fairness over public contracts, nearly six years after it was formally established.

Michael Dunkley told Parliament that $773,000 has been set aside in the 2017/18 fiscal year for the Office of Procurement and Public Management — most of it earmarked for salaries, which have dropped by $87,000 with the discontinuation of the temporary post of project manager.

However, David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, scolded the Government for neglecting the office, saying just four of the eight budgeted positions were filled.

Mr Burt pointed to “ongoing instances of non-compliance” with Financial Instructions pointed out by the Accountant-General’s financial statements for the Consolidated Fund as of March 21, 2016, which was tabled last week in the House.

“The office that was created in 2011 to ensure that these violations were reduced is understaffed,” Mr Burt said.

“Meanwhile, the Government has refused to publish the code of conduct for procurement that will make violations of the rules an offence. The One Bermuda Alliance has been in office for 51 months and despite pleas from the public and the Commission of Inquiry, they still refuse to follow the Good Governance Act.”

MPs heard on Monday that the OPMP is to adopt a system for managing capital projects in the coming fiscal year, along with a procurement procedure manual and a code of practice. A draft code was published in November 2016, with consultation closing on January 31.

OPMP was an early initiative under the former premier Paula Cox, unveiled in November 2010, as part of a host of measures under the Good Governance Act that Parliament passed in July 2011.

But the understaffed office languished in subsequent years, with its code of practice a continual work in progress — something Ms Cox lamented in October 2016 during her appearance before the Commission of Inquiry.

Under the 2016 Throne Speech, the Government has pledged to integrate the code of practice for project management and procurement within “a new unified legislative framework” to replace sections of the Good Governance Act and the Public Treasury (Administration and Payments) Act 1969.

The OPMP has also been allocated a grant of $150,000 for 2017/18, which the Premier said would go towards an electronic purchasing and tendering system.

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