During last week’s House of Assembly meeting, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith discussed nearly $8 million worth of government contracts that went untendered.
The contracts, which dated back to 2012, went to three international companies: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Baker McKenzie, and Indigo Engineering Caribbean Group Limited.
Dr. Smith (R-at large), who also serves as the minister of finance, addressed the contracts in response to inquiries from Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie (R-D1), who criticised government’s decision not to put each to public tender.
According to the premier, government paid more than $2.9 million to PwC, which in 2016 was the world’s second-largest professional services firm by income.
The territory’s Public Finance Management Regulations require government to procure tenders for contracts worth more than $100,000 unless Cabinet waives the requirement.
“The services that have been rendered by Pricewaterhouse are specialised services which government considered could best be provided by PwC,” Dr. Smith said after being asked why government chose not to tender, “and therefore the decision was made to waive the tender process to allow PwC to provide the necessary services.”
According to Dr. Smith, government also paid nearly $4.6 million to Baker McKenzie, a large multinational law firm.
“Baker McKenzie was engaged to provide legal services in relation to two specific government projects: the pier park development and the T.B. Lettsome Airport expansion project,” he said. “In both instances, government agreed to waive the tender process due to the special nature of the work required in relation to both projects, and Baker McKenzie’s ability to execute the work.”
Additionally, government paid $420,000 to the St. John-based Indigo Engineering Caribbean Group Limited for project management services related to the airport expansion, Dr. Smith explained. The contract, which ended in 2014, was also not tendered.
The opposition leader further questioned the premier about Cabinet’s decisions to waive the tenders, especially in regards to Indigo Engineering, considering that the project’s timeline had not created a time crunch.
“Sometimes, you can get the best expertise if you actually headhunt and look for a particular skill, and sometimes just using the tender process doesn’t yield the best expertise,” Dr. Smith responded.
Mr. Fahie continued pressing.
“So [you’re] saying the tender process is flawed?” he asked.
The premier denied this, noting that certain types of expertise require different processes.