By Victor Poyotte
In 2007, I was contracted by the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) and the government of Belize, to conduct an organisational review of three oversight institutions namely the Integrity Commission, the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner and the Office of the Contractor General (OCG). To the best of my knowledge, the only other country in the Caribbean with the Office of the Contractor General at the time was Jamaica.
I learnt then that Jamaica established the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) in 1983 amid widespread public outcries that were prompted by allegations of corruption in the award and implementation of the government of Jamaica contracts. In fact, the main concern at then was that there was very little competition and transparency in the award of contracts in the country.
While Saint Lucia has established the Integrity Commission and the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner, the country is yet to establish the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).
In its manifesto for the 2011 general elections, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) stated as follows:
“The construction sector has been hard hit by the recklessness of the UWP administration. During the past five years, there have been several documented instances of clear conflicts of interest and questionable procurement practices. An SLP government will introduce legislation to create the Office of the Contractor General to monitor and investigate the award of contracts by Government and its agencies.”
However, although the party won the 2011 general elections it ended the term in June 2016, without establishing the Office of the Contractor General, but the reason for failing to fulfil this promise is unclear.
The purpose of this article is to remind the new Labour administration that citizens of Saint Lucia were very vocal about the abuse of several direct awards of contracts made to select construction companies and allegations of corruption in the management of contracts during the last five years of the United Workers Party (UWP) administration.
During the 2021 election campaign, the SLP acknowledged the concerns of the electorate and promised to address this matter.
This article is also intended to suggest that the administration give serious consideration to the establishment of an Office of the Contractor General as one of the measures to deal with this type of abuse.
Among the findings of my research is that the Office of the Contractor General performs several critical functions relating to the award of contracts.
Its primary functions are to ensure:
- a) That the public sector procurement process delivers value to the taxpayer.
- b) That government contracts are awarded based on merit.
- c) That government contracts are managed free from corruption, impropriety, and irregularity.
- d) That the contracting process is transparent, impartial, competitive, fair, efficient, and effective.
- e) That all public agencies, conform to the requirements for the award, implementation and termination of government contracts and licenses.
It is not the responsibility of the Office of the Contractor General to approve, endorse or recommend the award of government contracts but to monitor and investigate the award of government contracts, licenses, and permits to determine whether the provisions of existing legislation and policy are being met.
However, if the new government plans to set up that office, it is expected that the ministry of finance will provide the Office of the Contractor General with adequate financial, human, material, and physical resources to carry out its mandate efficiently and effectively.