Trinidad & Tobago

General

Trinidad and Tobago became a member of CARICOM on 1st August 1973. For details on the economy, political structure and demographics see the World Fact Book - Trinidad and Tobago

Public Procurement Laws

The Public Procurement system in Trinidad and Tobago is representative of the systems existing in many other CARICOM Member States which were former British Colonies. The Minister of Finance has oversight and has issued Standard Procurement Procedures for Public Sector Procurement.  However these do not have the force of law. The law presently regulating public sector procurement is the Central Tenders Board Ordinance 1961 which was originally established to be “the sole and exclusive authority in inviting, considering and accepting or rejecting offers for the supply of articles or for the undertaking of works or any services necessary for carrying out the functions of Government or any statutory bodies, and to dispose of surplus or unserviceable articles belonging to the Government or any statutory bodies”.  The Ministry of Finance through the CTB has issued Guidelines for the Procurement of Consultancy Services under the Central Tenders Ordinance. Since 1961 there has been a systematic statutory erosion of the remit of the CTB first in 1979 then in 1987, 1991 and 1993.  This has resulted in the vast majority of sub-central procuring entities procurements being administered outside of the statutory framework.  CTB provisions now cover only procurement above thresholds undertaken by Ministries, regional corporations and local government. The justification proffered for these exclusions is that the bureaucratic CTB procedures hampered commercial efficiency.  The Joint Select Parliamentary Committees established by Parliament and the Office of the Auditor General under the Exchequer and Audit Acts provide additional ex post facto oversight relying only on review and audit mechanisms to achieve accountability.

Following on after the Piarco Airport Development Project procurement scandal where several former Government Ministers, senior public officials and members of the business community were charged for divers’ corruption and related criminal offenses, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago appointed a multi-sectoral Committee to make recommendations for public procurement reform. The Committee comprised public sector officials, representatives of civil society, business and professional sectors. After research and consultation the Green Paper on Public Sector Procurement Reform was disseminated for national consultation and after revising the document to incorporate contributions from the broader national community, the White Paper on Reform of the Public Sector Procurement Regime was laid in Parliament in September 2005 and expressed by the then Prime Minister to be Government’s new Public Procurement Policy which it intended to enact by 2006.  The White Paper sought to analyse critically some of the main systems for procurement reform, including the UNCITRAL Model Law and the Institutional Model for Procurement Reform adopted by Jamaica and Belize.  Both of the models outlined above were bypassed and the Principle Model for public procurement reform in Trinidad and Tobago was recommended.  The Principle Model, is one in which the legislation prescribes principles and establishes broad parameters that promote best procurement practices. This is achieved by the development and implementation of mandatory guidelines which are amplifications of the operating principles. The system proposes a Procurement Regulator directly accountable to Parliament with the role to oversee the procurement system but not to be involved in any actual procurement process. The Regulator is seen as the crux of the system and much like the Contractor General in Jamaica and Belize would have investigative powers equivalent to that of a Commission of Enquiry and the discretion to suspend the procurement process or certain components of it for the purpose of investigation. The effectiveness of the proposed model is based on the universal application of clearly articulated principles operating as law in all transactions involving public funds and backed by heavy penalties in the event of breach of the principles. In June 2010 the Government tabled the Public Procurement & Disposal of Property Bill which includes some revisions to the White Paper approach. By 2013 a new revised bill had been produced by the Government but as yet has not been passed into law.  The new bill is heavily criticised by the Joint Council for the Construction Industry and other civil society organisations as resiling from positions articulated in the White Paper.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago having noted the substantial savings to be derived from the e-Auction process and the added benefit of improving accountability and transparency in the procurement process, has invested heavily and implemented e-auction as an alternative form of procurement in the State Enterprise Sector.

On 15th October 2008 Trinidad and Tobago signed the CARIFORUM EC - EPA which contains public procurement conditions for the first time in a multi-lateral trade agreement in the ACP.  The conditions require transparency in all Government Procurement above a threshold of approximately 164,000 Euros.  In July 2013 the public procurement provisions were enacted into domestic law and await the proclamation of the President to have effect. 

Anti-Corruption Laws

Trinidad and Tobago has enacted the full gamut of anti-corruption legislation including the Prevention of Corruption Act Chap 11:11Proceeds of Crime Act Chap 11:27, the Integrity in Public Life Act Chap 22:01, and the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act Chap 11:24.  Also in 1999 the Freedom of Information Act Chap 22:02 was enacted.

Trinidad and Tobago has ratified the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the UN Convention on Corruption and the CARICOM Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Serious Criminal Matters

Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2009 Ranking measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. The CPI is a "survey of surveys", based on 13 different expert and business surveys. Trinidad and Tobago ranked 79th in the CPI 2009 with a score of 3.6.

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