(Extracted from the Business Observer – July 10, 2015)
A Bill to modernise Jamaica's public procurement legislation was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The Public Procurement Act will reflect new policy thinking and international best practices in the area.
Opening the debate on the Bill, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Horace Dalley, said it will facilitate greater participation of the micro, small and medium-size enterprise (MSME) sector in public procurement.
"The Bill includes a definition of offsets in Clause 2, which recognises the policy of the Government to apply margin of preference...to encourage Jamaica's economic growth, in particular, among the MSME sector," Dalley said.
He noted that with the introduction of offsets there will be the creation of policy space to facilitate the growth of MSMEs.
"A certain portion of Government contracts will be set aside only for the MSME sector. For example, if procurement is to be done, let us say, at a cost of $10 million, certain contractors and suppliers of a higher grade will not be allowed to bid on those procurements. Those procurements will be reserved only for the MSME sector," Dalley explained.
He added that the Joint Select Committee spent a lot of time ensuring that the Bill bolsters the work of small businesses in Jamaica.
The Bill will also provide for the establishment of the Procurement Policy Office, the Public Procurement Commission and strengthen and expand the function of the Procurement Review Board that will regulate and harmonise the public procurement process.
It also removes from the Contractor General's Act all provisions related to the National Contracts Commission (NCC), to be replaced by the new Public Procurement Commission.
The methods of procurement have also been expanded, and the circumstances in which bidding occurs broadened to include open and closed framework agreements, as well as electronic Government procurement.
In his contribution to the debate, Member of Parliament for East Central, St. James, Edmund Bartlett, said the Bill "breaks new grounds in terms of building Jamaica's capacity to deliver in the international trade, as well as in terms of efficiencies, which are vital if we are to be regarded as being a place to do business, raise our families and to live a prosperous life".
The Bill is to be sent to the Senate for its approval and, if passed, will be Jamaica's first stand-alone instrument, which will guide and regulate how the Government spends taxpayers' dollars on procuring goods, services and works.