The Caribbean Development Bank held procurement workshops in the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean in September and October to help ensure that governments get good value for money.

The VI’s session earlier this month focused on educating public officers about general procurement principles, planning, red flags and ethics, according to Luis Thais, the United Nation’s Development Programme’s representative in the territory.

The workshop comes on the heels of two previous CDB opportunities: an August workshop for businesses interested in competing for public contracts and a procurement development session for public officers in April.

The bank has reason to be invested: It launched a $65.3 million reconstruction and rehabilitation loan project in the territory in April.

The loan is designed to fund various infrastructure efforts, including the reconstruction of 3.9 kilometres of roads and their associated drainage structures; the construction and repair of approximately 900 metres of coastal defences along the west coast of Tortola; the restoration of pump stations and wastewater treatment plants; and the rehabilitation of three reservoirs damaged during the hurricane.

It will also support capital projects, including the reconstruction of the West End ferry terminal; the construction of a new Department of Disaster Management building; the rehabilitation of 11 schools; and the reconstruction of the special needs-focused Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre, according to CDB officials.

Procurement debate

As the CDB continues to lead contract-tendering workshops, some lawmakers have criticised the bank for weighing down their processes with too many procurement requirements.

At a House of Assembly sitting in August, Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn — an avid defender of government’s petty-contract traditions — complained about the “onerousness” of the CDB requirements, which he argued were preventing work from being completed.

“You have to make sure, of course, that you have a very good and comfortable level of transparency and accountability, but you cannot have a process to the point where you become impotent, where you don’t get anything done,” Mr. Walwyn (R-at large) said. “It doesn’t make any sense. To say you have a $65 million loan facility in your hand — I’ve advanced you $15 million of it and you can’t get a cent of it spent almost a year after the hurricane — it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Mr. Walwyn’s remarks came despite years of criticisms of the territory’s procurement procedures from successive VI auditors general, who say the territory’s weak tender processes often fail to secure good value for money.

At a press conference on Oct. 1, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith noted that government officials had expressed their concerns to CDB President Warren Smith during his visit in September.

“We pointed out that the process is too long and is causing us not to get our projects done in a more timely manner,” Dr. Smith (R-at large) said, “and so he and his team left with the idea of reviewing the processes so we could have a more speedy approach to developing projects based on the fact that we just had the devastating hurricanes and we need to move the redevelopment forward quickly.”

Around the region

The CDB also led public sector sessions in Haiti and the Cayman Islands in September and Anguilla in October. All fell under the umbrella of a particular CDB programme — “Public Policy Analysis and Management and Project Cycle Management” training workshops — that launched in 2016 and has trained more than 1,000 public officials around the region.