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Contract complied with rules

By Andre Bagoo Sunday, April 6 2014

THE SELECTION of the firm Baker Tilly Montano Ramcharitar to provide additional expert legal advice to the Public Accounts Committee was in “full accord with procurement rules”, Clerk of the House of Representatives Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel said last week.

The PAC, which is chaired by PNM MP Colm Imbert, hired the firm specifically for its probe of the National Insurance Board and paid it $43,125 after a process which saw Parliament officials seek proposals from other firms.

In correspondence issued in response to a report in last week’s Sunday Newsday which stated the firm — founded and run by the PNM’s Danny Montano — had been retained, the Clerk outlined the process which resulted in this being so.

“At a meeting held on February 8, 2011, the PAC agreed that there was need, from time to time, for the services of an accounting expert to analyse complex reports and identify critical financial issues for the understanding of all Members, in furtherance of the work of the Committee,” the Clerk said. “This decision was communicated to the Clerk of the House who is the Accounting Officer of the Parliament, by the then Secretary of the PAC, Mr Ralph Deonarine.”

Thereafter, “Mr Deonarine wrote to the General Manager of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT) and explained the nature of the services being sought by the Committee. In due course, ICATT submitted a list of Accounting firms, in good standing and who in their opinion, had the capacity to assist the Committee as required. On May 11, 2011, the Secretary to the Committee wrote to each firm identified by ICATT and invited them to submit a proposal, inclusive of fees, for the type of service needed by the Committee.”

“After the parliamentary recess and the ensuing budget debate, the PAC resumed its work on November 22, 2011 and decided to recommend to the Clerk of the House that the firm of Baker Tilly, Montano, Ramcharitar be retained to provide the required service,” she said. “The basis for the selection of this company was in full accord with procurement rules — the lowest price tendered. The Committee was also content with the fact that this company indicated that services would be provided by senior Accountants.”

Minutes of the meeting of November 22, 2011, are not disclosed in the PAC’s final report to Parliament.

The Clerk stated, “Present at that meeting were Mr Colm Imbert, Mr Anand Ramlogan, Mr Vasant Bharath, Mr Anil Roberts, Ms Ramona Ramdial, Mr Danny Maharaj (former Senator) and Mrs Corinne Baptiste-Mc Knight (now deceased). There were no objections to the decision to accept the lowest tenderer. Mr Ramlogan did not vote because his schedule did not give him the time to review the proposals before the meeting.” No division was taken and there were no recusals.

She continued, “It was also agreed that if the lowest tendering firm failed in the performance of the work required of the PAC, their services should be terminated and the next lowest bidder retained in relevant order.” The Clerk had no objection.

“It is important to note that the Clerk of the House had no objection to this request and fully endorsed the procedures used by the Secretary of the Committee for the proper procurement of the required services,” she said. “Therefore, in due course, a contract was prepared by the Parliament’s Legal Department and was duly executed between the Clerk of the House and Leslie Ramcharitar on behalf of Baker Tilly, Montano, Ramcharitar. The Clerk approved the rate of $1,500 per hour (the tender fee) at a maximum of six hours per month, based on the history of the work of the Committee. (The next lowest fees tendered were $1,800/hr followed by $2,000/hr).”

Asked why some details of the process of procurement were not included in the Parliament report, the Clerk said, “There is no reason for ICATT ‘not being mentioned’ in the report you refer to. A report does not state everything that goes on during the period of work of a committee.”

Asked why the minutes of the meeting of November 22, 2011, at which the decision to retain Baker Tilly Montano Ramcharitar was taken by the committee members present, were not included in the final report, the Clerk said, “The meeting of November 22nd was a private meeting. In those circumstances, the minutes of that meeting would hardly find itself attached to any report, since it did not relate to any particular inquiry. As you are aware, the minutes attached to the report to which you refer would have been those relevant to the subject of that report….the Committee’s public meetings with the NIB. So there was nothing sinister about the minutes of the 22nd not being attached to that report.”

She said the minutes record the following: “The Committee deliberated as to the selection of a consultant and agreed that the consultancy should be awarded to the firm Montano, Ramcharitar”.

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