AG report findings– no beginning, completion dates recorded by Tender BoardAuditor General Deodat Sharma has raised red flags over the awarding of 18 contracts to one contractor in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), which were not put through a competitive bidding process, but were instead handed to the contractor in a ‘selective tendering’ process.Auditor General Deodat SharmaFor 2017, $459.6 million was allocated for repairs and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure in the region. The favoured contractor received 18 contracts worth some $59.1 million, which fell under a $90 million allocation for the drainage and irrigation component of the regional budget.The Auditor General made it clear that tenders for these 18 projects were not advertised publicly. Instead, the Regional Tender Board (RTB) claimed the contractor was procured through selective tendering.“The reason given in the RTB minutes for using this method of procurement in 10 cases was that the works were emergencies. No reason was given for using this method of procurement for the other eight contracts.”“Further, eight of the 10 contracts awarded by the RTB on September 7, 2017 and recorded on RTB minutes were valued at $21.5 million, but these contracts had no commencement and completion dates stated as a means of ensuring that works are completed within a stipulated time.”In response to this, the head of the budget agency noted that the cases were all “emergencies” and went on to explain that it was an oversight for the minutes to not include information on the commencement and completion dates. The head of the agency did promise that the omission would be corrected.The Audit Office however recommended that the regional administration ensure all contracts are awarded in accordance with the Procurement Act. In addition, it urged the region to ensure that all contracts are complete with commencement and completion dates to ensure proper monitoring and enforcing of penalties.Sole sourcingAnti-corruption voices have repeatedly criticised the Government for sole sourcing contracts, under the guise of emergency works. In fact, the fallout from one sole sourced contract for a drug bond is believed to be behind aspects of a Cabinet reshuffle early last year.In May of last year, the parliamentary Opposition had fielded questions in the National Assembly to the Ministers of Public Health and Communities in relation to the public procurement practices being used by the Government.When a response came from Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, it was revealed that nine out of 10 regions in Guyana did no public tendering for drugs and medical supplies between January 2016 and February 2017.In addition, all regions indicated that no prequalification process was followed. Procurement of drugs and medical supplies had all been done in the name of emergencies.A key Inter-American Development report (IDB) had recommended that countries in the Region, including Guyana, implement a number of measures aimed at improving public procurement.The report titled, ‘Better spending for better lives: How Latin America and the Caribbean can do more with less’, has identified poor procurement practices as a contributor to wasted public funds.Among its recommendations for countries in the region were for Governments to avoid single sourced contracts and concentrate on competitive bidding. In fact, it was advised that open tendering be the default method of procurement.“Use competitive and efficient tendering and limit the use of exceptions and single source procurement,” the report states. “Use open tendering as the default method and modern tools (such as) framework agreements, electronic catalogues and reverse auctions for standardised products.”In addition, the report advised that Governments in the Region publish annual procurement plans, as part of a comprehensive framework that would set out the Government’s goals and priority areas.“Publishing annual procurement plans increases accountability of contracting authorities, as they need to justify diverging from the plan,” the report points out, attributing this piece of advice to the European Commission.The report also advised that all stages of public procurement, including all Government personnel involved in the process, be brought under a centralised procurement agency. And while Guyana does have a National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), the report also advises that this agency oversee and promote training of personnel.