Marsha Caddle. Photo courtesy Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS).
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Backbencher Marsha Caddle has called on the government to fulfil its promise to publish information on contracts awarded for public works projects.
She made the call as she insisted that public procurement must be fully transparent, especially when it comes to the award of contracts for major government projects.
“We had, during COVID, to make some emergency decisions and we said to the people of Barbados that we would publish information on any contract that we had to quickly put in place – because of the emergency nature – ... any contract over [BDS – Ed.] $1 million [US $500,000],” the Member of Parliament for St. Michael South Central said in Parliament on Tuesday, during debate on a resolution on the Barbados Fiscal Framework 2023-2024 to 2025-2026.
“The publication of that information, whether in COVID or not, is critical to the trust and accountability of this government.”
Caddle said the details of awarded contracts should be made available to the public.
“We also need to be very clear on the procurement methodologies that are obtained when it comes to major capital works, because the sheer volume of government goods and services and the sheer value ... means that we have to use it as an opportunity for people in this country and their small businesses to earn and to be part of the growth and to contribute.
“And I see no reason why we should not publish contracts over [BDS] $1 million as we said we would, whether in an emergency situation or not; why we should not publish contract awards of a certain size. But further, we need to also make clear the methodology by which consultants and businesses have been selected for major projects and major works in this country,” she stated.
The economist argued that this transparency would ensure companies bidding on projects are assured that the selection process was fair.
“I caution that we have to maintain the confidence of those that we are contracting in this economy, few as they are, to be able to come in good faith to our procurement exercises and to feel that they have a shot. And I’m cautioning that we have to make that very, very transparent, because to do otherwise is to risk the onward and the ongoing development of the country. Because if I come to an exercise and I feel that I am not being considered duly and fairly within whatever framework you’ve laid out, I’m not going to come tomorrow, I’m not going to come next week,” Caddle contended.
Touching on the plans to establish an e-procurement system, she cautioned that “putting something online does not make it efficient” and urged officials to fully address the issues surrounding the process.
The former minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment said it was also necessary to set up a register of government assets to see which were being underutilised.
“We need to know and see what does the government own. Is it being used properly today, can it be better used? And that will also help inform the issue of the upkeep and renewal of the capital stock, because we have assets that if we don’t start the work of maintaining them, they will be less usable or perhaps not usable at all in the future,” Caddle said. ~ Barbados TODAY ~