New way of handling Government contracts is hailed by Opposition’s Gordon-Pamplin
Shadow Works Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said taxpayers will benefit from a new system ensuring Government contracts are handled correctly.
Premier Paula Cox set up the Procurement Office following numerous complaints about the tendering process, and allegations some bidders received favoured treatment under the Ewart Brown administration.
Speaking during the Budget debate on Project Management and Procurement on Wednesday, Mrs Gordon-Pamplin told the House of Assembly: “The taxpayers will see there's benefit to them as a result of the efficiencies [set up by this office].”
Ms Cox had given greater details on the new office, which receives $1.3 million for the next fiscal year, to be spent on administration, training, core and support services and capital works.
“The tendering and project management processes for major capital projects have been revamped to include enhanced governance measures,” Ms Cox told the House.
“These include disclosure requirements to identify potential conflicts of interest, more rigorous change order management and stricter and more frequent reporting protocol to monitor progress in construction build-out and the corresponding spending profile.
“Should it be necessary, contractors will also be subject to project audits during construction to ensure value for money.
“Government considers that the positive enhancements to the tendering and project management processes will help to restore trust and confidence in our public works and save money.”
The Premier and Finance Minister said specific performance measures had been put in place, including one that annual spending on projects must be within 85 percent of their allocation, and that must reflect how much of the project has been completed.
Another measure states 90 percent of clients must be satisfied with the service they've been offered.
Leading the response for the United Bermuda Party, Mrs Gordon-Pamplin said: “It's important that the public of Bermuda can achieve a certain level of comfort in knowing there's an oversight body to ensure value for money.”
The Shadow Minister said the new office appeared to have a mantra of ensuring contracts are given out fairly. But she said matters could be further improved by putting the contracts online.
She listed the example of the Dockyard Cement Facility contract last year, which Jim Butterfield gave up after he was told he would have to shell out for a costly relocation of Dockyard's two silos; Dr Brown's friend Dennis Correia, who took over the contract, was then told the silo condition was no longer in place.
Mrs Gordon-Pamplin said: “I think that if we had this type of project management and procurement that everything was out in the open, I don't think the concern would exist for that type of situation to happen again.”
Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards repeated the UBP's call for a Contractor General independent of Government.
“If we really want this to work properly, this should be independent of any Ministry,” he said.
Ms Cox argued the idea is to enhance Government services and it was never intended for the body to be separate to Government.
She also warned against blaming all overspending on Ministers alone, saying: “I think Ministers are ultimately accountable and the buck stops with them, but at the same time they are not the ones making the estimates or doing the drawings.”