By SEAN DOUGLAS Saturday, May 31 2014
“LANDMARK legislation” and “a real game-changer” was how a new procurement bill was hailed last Tuesday night in the Senate by Independent Senator Anthony Vieira.
He welcomed the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Bill 2004, which he saw as both readable and workable, as an apt replacement for the current “bureaucratic, procedural and outdated” Central Tenders Board Act.
Underlining the need for procurement laws, Vieira quoted a famous American wiretapping case whose ruling said that crime is contagious, the government must be subject to the same rules as citizens, and that if the government becomes a law-breaker then it invites every man to also do so. He said public agencies must act to give responsibility, value for money and equity.
Vieira hailed the bill as principles-based, which made it fluid and dynamic. He said the bill sets up an Office of Procurement Regulator as an independent investigative and enforcement authority, that reports to Parliament and to a parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) and is otherwise not subject to the direction of anyone. Anything done outside of the this regime becomes automatically void and illegal, Vieira added.
The bill mandates that a database of the qualifications of all contractors, and that all contracts be publicised. The Regulator has a potent arsenal and is not a toothless office, he assured.
Vieira said the citizenry owes a huge debt to Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi for his help in good law-making but said he disagreed with his colleague’s view that the bill’s penalties are excessive.
Vieira said the penalties against white-collar crime must be serious or else otherwise they will just be dismissed out of hand as an opportunistic hazard or as an operational expense.
He said the public’s rage is rising against crime and corruption, and so those persons who violate public laws should not expect sympathy.
“It is time to get serious about crime and corruption, and stop pussy-footing around,” he
Vieira urged that the regulations to be drafted later to effect the bill should be not be subject to Parliament’s “negative resolution” (whereby it automatically becomes law unless Parliament specifically votes against it), but urged it instead be subject to “positive resolution” (where it only takes effect if Parliament actively vote for it).
Vieira was widely applauded when he urged that the Bill promptly be brought into force as an Act, instead of Parliament forever trying to craft a perfect bit of legislation. He also said it is easy to change a law, but not to change entrenched culture and behaviour.
“I really like this bill,” gushed Vieira, saying it offers hope in the fight against white-collar crime and corruption.
He predicted the bill would bring a new regime of high ethical conduct that would rebuild trust in local institutions.