Speech

The registration of contractors eligible for the award of government contracts is the statutory responsibility of the National Contracts Commission by virtue of section 23D of the Contractor-General Act. By agreement with the Commission, the Office of the Contractor-General conducts the administrative and technical processing and evaluation of applications for registration.
Through the astuteness of the OCG, it has been discovered that the registration of a number of contractors was based on false claims and documentation. Indeed, the OCG established that some of these irregularities were facilitated by members of its own staff, a number of whom have been dismissed.
As a result of these discoveries, the OCG has instituted a rigorous process of assessment and verification for all applications for both registration and re-registration. This process, unavoidably takes time – much more time than obtained under the less rigorous process which the OCG practiced in the past. Consequently, a significant number of contractors whose registration has expired are therefore rendered ineligible while their applications for re-registration are being examined.
Cabinet, having been made aware of complaints from members of the Incorporated Master Builders Association and several other contractors, took the decision to place before the National Contracts Commission for its consideration and determination:an extension until February 28, 2011 for those contractors whose registration had expired and whose application for re-registration was being scrutinized under the new intensive verification process.this extension would not apply to those contractors whose registration the OCG had reason to believe involved misrepresentation or fraudulent activities and could be subject to criminal investigations.Contractors would be allowed to apply for re-registration not less than three months before expiration to allow sufficient time for the rigorous assessment to be done and a decision made before their registration actually expires.
Cabinet further advised the NCC to give consideration to:a registration period longer than one year in view of the rigorous process of verification now being instituted.a review of registration requirements to ensure that they are not onerous (e.g. whether the current requirement for contractors to have a full-time professional engineer on staff should be modified to accommodate contractual arrangements between the contractor and an engineering company to provide engineering services as and when required)a review of the monetary limits for each grade and category of contracts which were last set more than 5 years ago and need to be adjusted for inflation.
The Prime Minister, on 17th November 2010, convened a meeting with the Chairman of the NCC, the Contractor-General and the President of the Incorporated Master Builders Association to advise of Cabinet’s decision and the issues which it had referred to the NCC for its consideration and determination.
The Contractor-General expressed his opposition to any extension of registration notwithstanding the difficulties being faced by some contractors whose registration has expired and are not now eligible for government contracts but whose registration, when the evaluation process is finally completed, may be accepted.
The Government respects and supports the work of the Contractor-General. The Prime Minister has on several occasions publicly affirmed the Government’s support for him and his office. However, the consideration proposed by the Cabinet for an extension of expired registration to the end of February is designed to allow time for the thorough evaluation of contractors seeking re-registration. The proposal for applications for re-registration to be allowed three months before expiration is to ensure that no further extension is required.
While the OCG has its statutory responsibility, the NCC also has the responsibility as set out in Section 23 (c) of the Contractor-General Act to ensure efficiency in the processing award and implementation of government contracts. While the integrity of the process is crucial, the responsibility for efficiency cannot be best served by leaving in suspension contractors who were previously processed and recommended by the OCG but are yet to be re-certified and about whose bona-fide the OCG has no reasonable suspicion.