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Chambers lament onerous procurement process

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Chambers lament onerous procurement process

Chambers lament onerous procurement process

SEVERAL business chambers in the country have voiced their concerns over what they have described as the “onerous and frustrating” process required to pre-qualify as a supplier for the Government as a result of the current procurement legislation.

During a news conference on Tuesday, where he discussed his own concerns with the procurement legislation, Finance Minister Colm Imbert stated that only 861 suppliers had so far been pre-qualified to offer services to the Government.

Kiran Singh
‘MASSIVE EDUCATION CAMPAIGN’: President of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce Kiran Singh.

Some 1,017 were rejected, Imbert said.

Imbert said before the new procurement law was passed on April 26, there were maybe 100,000 suppliers in Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking to the Express yesterday, several business chambers said the arduous registration process is to blame for the lack of pre-qualified suppliers.

“Outside of it being onerous and being very time-consuming, I think people are really concerned about some of the requirements, which is why they have had such a low uptake from companies,” president of the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Commerce Ramon Gregorio said.

“Some of the members were talking about the need for the professional indemnity. Of course it is expensive, especially for consulting service providers, and they are essentially asking people to have professional indemnity insurance up front when there is no guarantee they will get the job,” Gregorio said.

Because of the exasperating process, Gregorio said many companies, especially smaller businesses, may just opt to not register at all.

“It will have that cyclical effect and then the Government may not have access to the best supplier because of that, or they could only go to a medium-sized or large-scale firm who will have higher mark-ups and higher margins to protect,” he said.

Chairman of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers Vivek Charran said the process may be doing itself more harm than good.

“The procurement legislation was supposed to be a legitimate way for more businesses, large and small to get inside for the tendering process, and there would be more competition and it will all be legitimate and above board, but the reality of the situation is that once again the requirements for these things are pitched in a way that makes it difficult and onerous for certain types of businesses,” Charran said.

“Once again we ask ourselves ‘what is the reason for the requirements being as they are’.

“If the requirements themselves are exclusionary to the majority of smaller and medium-sized companies that want to take part in the process, and favours only larger companies or companies that are already established, perhaps the legislation is self-defeating in that sense. Because what they are doing is creating an oligarchy of companies that can tender for the Government, and there is no reason why it should be so,” he said.

Charran said the business community supported the legislation, but now that it has come into effect the question is “who can actually get inside?”

Chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George said according to feedback he has received, the process seems to be very “document-intensive”, and requires businesses to “jump through lots of hoops”.

“But at the end of the day I think it is better that we swallow the bitter pill now and ensure that we have everything in order,” George said.

“While I empathise with those who indicate that it is challenging and onerous, I would say also it ought not to be too cumbersome or unduly restrictive. But I also support the Government’s position in that we must comply with our regulatory and statutory requirements and approval before we can qualify to do business with the Government,” he said.

President of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce Kiran Singh called for consultation with the Government to look at addressing the issue, especially as it relates to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“If we can work out some sort of accommodation for SMEs in the short term to give them the opportunity to still tender, probably at the lower end of the scale to facilitate business continuity, especially for those who are struggling,” Singh said.

He called for a “massive education campaign” to assist businesses to further develop themselves and deepen their relationship with the Government.

“This can be used as the impetus to become more professional. It can be a positive. While that is happening, we appeal to the Government in the short term to give us leeway to get our house in order,” he said.

Chambers lament onerous procurement process

By: Joel Julien

Express Newspaper Trinidad and Tobago

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