EDITOR: It appears to be normal for Opposition parties to accuse governments they wish to replace as corrupt. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is no exception. Of course, the presentation of evidence to validate these claims seems grounded more in rhetoric than substance. To its credit, the current government has held to the letter of the law as regards government contracts.
Notwithstanding, a recent error by civil servants in the procurement of civil works for a Caribbean Development Bank funded project, since 2001, the observance of impartiality has been the hallmark of government procurement. In fact, the procurement procedures of the government, as overseen by the Central Supplies Tenders Board, have been ratified by yearly
unqualified technical and financial audits done by funding agencies that include the European Union, the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank.
Many contractors or suppliers do not understand that contracts are awarded to the lowest qualified bid, not the lowest bid. Contractor “A” can have the lowest price, but does not show the experience needed or staff qualifications to successfully implement the project. Contractor “B’s” price may be higher than Contractor “A’s”, but has the required experience and therefore will win the bid. These requirements are always spelt out in the bid documents so that contractors know how their bids will be evaluated. You can’t have experience in building houses and expect to win a contract in sea defenses. They are two different types of works.
In the case of equipment, some
bidders will offer similar types of equipment at a lower price but lose
out on the bid because their equipment does not satisfy the requirements. If the bid asks for a printer with 50 prints per minute, don’t offer one that gives 40 prints per minute because it is cheaper. Bidders have to stick to the requirements of the bids to be competitive.
In concert with the World Bank, the current government has committed to initiating and supporting reforms critical to building a more resilient economy through strengthening fiscal policy and public financial management. Through the First Fiscal Reform and Resilience Development Policy Credit, measures include the enhancement of the efficacy of public spending through procurement reform. In its October 26, 2020 Results Brief, the Bank states inter alia, “Procurement reform has been completed and will ensure increased value for money.”
One very important and often overlooked initiative of the Tenders Board has been the publishing of government contract awards in the public domain for transparency, a process that was never enacted by previous governments. It is even more interesting to note that the names of two former Opposition politicians appear several times in the list. Bally and Bally Investment Ltd., owned and operated by the Cameron “Dinky” Balcombe, who was at the centre of a complaint of unfair treatment in the aforementioned CDB project, rode his way into more than $10 millions in works contracts in the four-year period that has been published by the Tenders Board. A former member of parliament, Glenford Stewart, who vigorously exercises his right to campaign for his political party, is the principal of Stewart Engineering Ltd., a firm that has won over a half of million dollars in service contracts within the same period. SVG is a small space and at a glance, we can see that Messrs. Balcombe and Stewart are not alone on the list of contract awards as far as perceived and real political allegiance is concerned.
The evidence certainly speaks to an open, competitive, and fair system of procurement and spending of public funds. After all, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and clearly, Dinky and Glenford are not starving.