NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Nearly 1,500 suppliers have registered on the government’s new procurement platform since its launch last November according to Prime Minister Philip Davis, with the government realizing nearly $3 million in savings through its use .
While contributing to the debate on public financial management and public procurement bills, Davis said: “We will also have fully digital public procurement with the deployment of the Go Bonfire platform: a public procurement platform of first order which is implemented throughout the public sector and in the Public Authority of hospitals.
“Since the launch of the platform last November, 1,490 sellers have been registered. 299 opportunities were contracted during this period and the estimated savings from using the platform is $2.6 million. This number is expected to grow as more agencies move their procurement processes online. »
Davis noted that the new Public Financial Management and Procurement Bills would repeal and replace the Public Financial Management Act 2021, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2018, sections of the Financial Administration and Audit and the Public Procurement Act 2021, while “addressing problems with practice”. implementation, and improving the financial management and transparency of government on behalf of the Bahamian people. »
Davis argued that the previous procurement bill produced unintended consequences for public policy that his administration is keen to avoid.
“One of the worst examples of this is seen in the unequal awarding of contracts,” he continued.
“The processes put in place have created an environment in which the large suppliers are able to dominate the competition. For example, in the procurement of food products, one supplier, due to its size and relationship to the company, dominated the procurement of food products on behalf of the government.
“Under current law, this dominance is permitted. In fact, it is a result that the Act, as written, intentionally brings about. However, common sense would tell you that neither the government nor the people of the Bahamian want to exist in a reality where only the biggest, wealthiest companies with the most resources get every contract. We can all agree that the role of government should be to expand opportunities for a wide range of Bahamians. Our small and medium businesses also deserve opportunities,” Davis said.
He added: “The new bill does the opposite of what the current law does, by allowing the preferential treatment of specific groups. We will introduce preferences for micro, small and medium-sized businesses, women-owned businesses, Family Island businesses and youth-owned businesses. These are high priority areas that we are targeting as a government to diversify opportunities in the Bahamas.”
The Prime Minister further noted that the government ensures that all participants in the procurement processes are registered by the Public Procurement Department where the current law does not include international bidders in the registration process.
“We are lowering the threshold for establishing a tender committee to review bids and award contracts from $50,000 to $25,000 for more transparency on government contracts. We have revised all financial thresholds for greater flexibility, transparency and efficiency, to facilitate supply agreements and faster contract execution. Contracts below a certain threshold will now automatically be reserved for domestic bidders,” Davis said.
“Special permission will need to be granted for these procurement processes to allow for international tenders. Specific justifications must be provided for the approval of this request. For example, it may be a good or service that is not available in the Bahamas. In all other cases, any contract amount below this threshold will be reserved and granted to local companies. We preserve opportunities for Bahamian business owners.
“We are also introducing greater accountability for all parties. Under the new bill, bidders who attempt to influence or induce the award of a contract through an offer of employment, gratuity or other offer of value will be disqualified. This is yet another area that will be strengthened, among many others clearly and specifically defined in the bill.
Davis sharply criticized the former administration for not replacing existing financial management systems despite the funding left in place to do so.
“We left funding in place to replace existing financial management systems when we left office in 2017. To our surprise, when we returned to office in 2021, there was very little progress. The government payroll system has been in use since 1998. The hardware it is based on is no longer supported by the manufacturer. Despite the funding in place, in four years they haven’t done much to address this,” Davis said.
“No wonder the backlog grew so much while they were in office. Outdated software and obsolete hardware were kept in place by outdated leaders. The real victims of their inaction were the thousands of civil servants who show up for work every day but couldn’t receive the money they were earning.
“It’s not just a hiccup in the system,” Davis said.
“We’re talking about people’s careers and livelihoods here. Realizing the full extent of the problem, in our first month in the office, we set to work to eliminate this backlog. Some of the piles of files were piled up to the roof of the Civil Service Ministry and remained untouched for four and a half years.
“It couldn’t happen on our watch. Every civil servant deserves the salary he has earned. And as we prioritize payments due through the system, we are investing in a digital document management system and human resource management information system to ensure this backlog does not happen again,” Davis said.
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