Tuesday, October 4, 2022
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday that a new Public Procurement Bill will soon be released for consultation.
He made the announcement while giving remarks at the launch of the GoBoneFire eProcurement platform through which goods and services for all government and quasi-government agencies will be sourced.
Mr Davis explained that this “new day” government is solidly resolved in its ideals of good governance, integrity, and accountability.
“Procurement will necessarily be affected by our transformative co-dependent policy advances that require amendments to the Public Financial Management Act, the Public Procurement Act, and the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” he said.
“A new Public Procurement Bill will soon be publicised for consultation. GoBonfire is a necessary change in that process. The retiring platform was launched in 2005, well before the passage of the Public Procurement Act, 2021. Unfortunately, its age limited its function.
“Our Blueprint for Change speaks directly to digital transformation and, specifically, the Government Procurement Platform. GoBonfire aligns with our ease-of-doing-business approach to rescue the economy. From anywhere, a business entity can submit proposals for procurement opportunities with government and quasi-government agencies.”
This revelation comes after news that the Free National Movement intends to take legal action against the Davis administration to initiate a judicial review targeting the government’s failure to follow the Public Procurement Act.
The FNM’S leader Michael Pintard told this newspaper last week that he had already spoken with two attorneys and got a quote for a retainer for one of them in relation to this matter.
Last week, the prime minister challenged the opposition to “bring it on” in response.
In May, Economic Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis told reporters the government was hoping to amend the Public Procurement Act in the 2022/23 budget period with a view of making it “user friendly” to ensure better compliance and greater transparency.
Meanwhile, the nation’s leader spoke about the value of the procurement platform.
He mentioned for fiscal year 2022/2023, an allocation of approximately $795 million for recurrent and capital expenditure that represents “vast procurement opportunities for goods and services and for construction services”.
“The budget is structured around three priorities: managing the cost of living for Bahamians; creating and expanding jobs and ownership opportunities for Bahamians; and enhancing the safety and security of our communities and borders.
“The focal activities of the GoBonfire eProcurement Platform embrace our governance ideals and provide a requisite solution to facilitate our objective. From GoBonfire, we will assist the government by enhancing our ability to gather accurate, real-time data to inform decision-making, to ensure that obligations, including payments are being met on time, and to monitor the life cycle of the project.”
Mr Davis also said: “We have carefully selected this solution because it will ensure that procurement is consistent across the public sector - reducing cost without compromising quality, minimising product failures, and assuring operational efficiency to improve outputs of the supply chain.”
He highlighted the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International for 2021; The Bahamas ranked 30 out of 183 countries with a score of 64 out of 100.
Particularly, firms in the United States of America identified corruption as an obstacle to the foreign direct investment approval process and reported perceived corruption in government procurement.
“That is why we committed to fiscal consolidation and the modernisation of infrastructure to justify and procure public goods and services in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner,” the Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP said.
Simon Wilson, the Ministry of Finance’s financial secretary, said the total cost of the platform is $150,000 — compared to the existing platform it is “cheaper”.
Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chairman Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said the Chamber, as a part of its mandate, supports initiatives that bring with it opportunities for the business community.
She added: “We are advised that this e-procurement portal provides increased opportunities for small and medium-sized Bahamian businesses to participate in national procurement. Further, this system supports competition and reduces government expenditure.”
“Although it is trite to say that small and medium size enterprises are the lifeblood of the Bahamian economy, I would be remiss if I did not underscore that at this and to say that the saying is still very true. Accordingly, a system which supports increased opportunities is well received and considered a step in the right direction.”