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GSD pledges more transparency for public contracts

GSD Press Call130219 ( Photo John Bugeja ) in Goverment they would apply a new system for the award and supervision of Public Contracts.

The GSD yesterday set out its plans to overhaul the system for awarding and managing public contracts, should it be elected to government.

Making the policy announcement at a press briefing yesterday, the party insisted that its proposals will ensure that contracts are fairly and transparently allocated and will reduce the risk of abuse.

GSD Leader Keith Azopardi: “There has been for a long time a concern about the management and supervision of public contracts and the policy we are announcing today is intended to address those issues.”

Key among the changes proposed by the Opposition is a policy that the Allocation Board will hold monthly public meetings to consider applications and announce its tender awards.

Additionally, a new Government Value for Money Team will supervise these contracts and will report directly to the Chief Minister and Minister of Finance.

This new unit will combine internal audit, quantity surveying and other technical expertise to ensure that contracts are monitored and value for money maximized on an ongoing basis.

The function of this new unit will be to supervise, investigate and control expenditure on these contracts.

It will be empowered to address issues of malpractice and fraud as well as general financial efficiency of public service contracts above a certain threshold.

The GSD’s process would cover three aspects – application, award and supervision.

In respect of application, the GSD explained that new rules will be published dealing with the application for public contracts.

Additionally, eligibility and conflict rules will require persons to disclose whether they or a close family member are members of any political party or are related to any Government minister or senior civil servant.

There will also be revised rules as to who can apply for public contracts to safeguard transparency and fairness.

The GSD’s proposals will also see advertising thresholds and criteria as to when contracts are put out to open competitive tender will be reviewed to ensure more of these small contracts are advertised openly and in a timely manner.

With regards to the awarding of contracts, the GSD said there will be an Allocation Board made up of senior civil servants and independent members which will take decisions and publish reasons for the award of contracts. The Allocation Board will hold monthly public meetings to consider applications and announce its tender awards.

The factors to take account in the award will be set out in a set of fully transparent revised criteria against which applications will be judged.

There will also be a public searchable online register of all entities and persons awarded public contracts which will also include information on the unsuccessful tenderers.

Additionally, panels will be set up for the provision of legal, accountancy, audit and tax work.

These panels will be determined by the Attorney General and Financial Secretary respectively following the drafting of eligibility guidelines that have the approval of the Chief Secretary.

The legal panels will cover contentious and non-contentious work in various fields. Scales of fees for legal, accountancy, audit and tax work will be published which will be applicable for those panels.

In terms of supervising the process and in order to improve accountability and control of the use of public monies, the GSD said new systems will be put in place to curb wastage and enhance value for money.

In line with this, all persons or companies awarded public contracts above a prescribed value will need to adhere to ongoing value for money supervision of the performance of those contracts. Special rules will be put in place in the procurement of services, goods and articles as well as in the construction field.

Finally, no sub-contracting will be permitted without the specific authorization of the Government’s Value for Money team.

This system will apply to all public service contracts and to companies wholly owned or controlled by the Government [such as GJBS] and public authorities or statutory public bodies such as the GSLA or GHA.

Roy Clinton, GSD shadow Minister for Public Finance said: “This is a very important building block in managing our public finances and making sure that the taxpayers money is well spent.”

“The starting point has got to be procurement and ensuring that at all stages of the procurement process from award to the actual performance of the contract that the taxpayer is indeed achieving value for money,” he said.

“Government needs to be able to demonstrate that contracts deliver on price and at a competitive price. This policy goes a long way to achieving that objective and gives the taxpayer the assurance that their money is well spent.”

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