Cabinet Accepts Recommendations for Greater Adherence to Laws and Procedures by State Officers


Cabinet has approved some specific recommendations resulting from meetings convened by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson with Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of state entities last week.
This is in an effort to implement measures to secure greater adherence to laws and procedures by officers of the state in the procurement of goods and services.
Making the announcement at yesterday’s (May 16) post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman said that whilst some of the proposals, such as speeding up the disciplinary process of the Services Commissions and sharing information that are protected by secrecy provisions, would require further work, the Cabinet took some decisions, which it has the power to do.
One such immediate decision is the authorization for the procurement policies and guidelines to be re-circulated to all public bodies and the relevant officers who have responsibility for operating within those guidelines receive refresher courses.
He further informed that the Chief Executive Officers of the agencies have been mandated to report through their Permanent Secretaries and that within three weeks, the Cabinet Secretary should be able to verify that “everybody responsible for the conduct of procurement exercises have been reminded and notified of exactly what is required of them”.
Cabinet also approved drafting instructions to amend the Public Bodies (Management and Accountability) Act, to require public bodies to comply with the government’s procurement rules and to provide appropriate penalties for failing to adhere to them.
As a result of recommendations from those meetings, Cabinet has also mandated private auditors to include test checks of compliance with government’s procurement rules, when they are auditing public bodies. A requirement has also been put in place for details of contracts above the level of approval by the National Contracts Commission, but which are awarded on a sole source basis, be published on the websites of the relevant Ministries, giving values of awards, names of contractors and justification of sole sources.
“All of this is to ensure transparency and openness and ensure that those who are entrusted with responsibility for the award of contracts or who are engaged in procurement exercises, are following not only the letter, but the spirit of the laws and the regulations,” Senator Whiteman said.
He emphasized that the measures were a reflection of national concern about the way in which government conducts its business. “Government is, as it must be, concerned about efficiency, cost overruns, corruption when corruption exists, and of course our reputation internationally,” the Information Minister told journalists.
Senator Whiteman reiterated that the actions being taken were “basically to remind them of the procedures and to ensure that the procedures are accepted and understood by all those who have the responsibility”.
“It does not mean that problems will not arise. What it means is that everybody needs to know, whether you are in an agency where sometimes we have our own Board, we have our own procedures, we have developed our own system that works for us – they have to follow the procurement procedures as laid down,” he added.
Senator Whiteman stressed that in relation to agencies and statutory bodies, Permanent Secretaries needed to be a part of the process as they were the chief accounting officers. “It’s just a matter of tightening and ensuring that everybody is on board with all the procedures required,” he said.
A further set of measures as proposed by the organizations, which were represented at the meetings, are to be presented to the Cabinet next week, Senator Whiteman informed.

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