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A look at the Public Procurement Act

Published: 
Monday, April 20, 2015
Law Made Simple

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, 2015 was assented to and became law on January 14, 2015. The Act seeks to reform the procurement laws of Trinidad and Tobago in keeping with principles of good governance, such as accountability, integrity, transparency, and value for money. It establishes the Office of Procurement Regulation to act as the governing body for matters relating to public procurement and the retention and disposal of public property. 

“Procurement” or “public procurement” as defined in the Act relates to the acquisition of goods, works or services involving the use of public money. “Public property” means real or personal property owned by a public body. 

Objects
The objects of the Act, as stated in section 5, are to promote in public procurement and the disposal of public property: (a) the principles of accountability, integrity, transparency and value for money; (b) efficiency, fairness, equity and public confidence; and (c) local industry development, sustainable procurement and sustainable development. 

The Act applies to public bodies and also public-private partnership agreements in which arrangements are made between a public body and a private party to perform a public function or provide a service on behalf of the public body.
A “public body” under the Act includes the Office of the President;  the Parliament;  the Judiciary; a Ministry; the Tobago House of Assembly; a Municipal Corporation; a Regional Health Authority; a statutory body or state-controlled enterprise; a Service Commission; and a body corporate or unincorporated entity in relation to any function which it exercises on behalf of the State.

Regulation
The Act brings all bodies spending public money under a single regulatory framework that covers all stages of the procurement process. The responsibility for oversight and control rests with the Office of Procurement Regulation, which is headed by the Procurement Regulator and managed by a Board appointed by the President.

The functions of the Office as outlined in section 13 of the Act include: 
a. issuing and reviewing guidelines, preparing model handbooks, incorporating standardised bidding documents, procedural forms and relevant documents for use in public procurement (including  guidelines for specialised categories of transactions such as for construction and consultancy services);
b. the establishment of a comprehensive database of information on public procurement and tenders received, the award and value of contracts and other information of public interest; and
c. setting training standards, competence levels and certification requirements to promote best practices in procurement.

Compliance and enforcement
Any procurement of goods, works or services or retention or disposal of public property that is not done in accordance with the Act shall be void and illegal. In carrying out its monitoring function, the Office may conduct audits and periodic inspection of public bodies and issue directions to them. Any public body/person who fails to comply with such a direction without reasonable justification is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $100,000.00.

The Office has the power to investigate any alleged breaches of the Act. If it is of the view that an offence has been committed it shall make a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Under section 24 of the Act, the Regulator must also submit an annual report to the Parliament, including among other things, the total number and value of contracts awarded by public bodies, the number of unfulfilled procurement contracts, and those bodies that have failed to comply with the Act.

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