Concerns: Premier Paula Cox has formed a Procurement Office to oversee major capital projects. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
Concerns: Premier Paula Cox has formed a Procurement Office to oversee major capital projects. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
Bidding for Government contracts is about to become more transparent.

This is the promise of Premier Paula Cox following the establishment of a new Procurement Office under her direct control.

One of Ms Cox’s first moves after assuming office this week was to establish the new body, which will be responsible for handling major capital projects.

A series of Auditor Generals’ reports have highlighted concerns over conflicts of interest and lack of oversight on several projects. The new $15 million Transport Control Department was the latest development to come under fire, with the financial watchdog questioning how costs were allowed to escalate without Government intervention.

Ms Cox told the Bermuda Sun that many capital projects had been well managed and delivered on or close to budget. But she added: “My administration is committed to raising the standard so that government capital projects and government services generally are of the highest quality and delivered in a cost efficient manner.

“In this regard, I am certain that there is an identity of interest between the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Auditor-General.”

She said the new office — established following an internal review she commissioned as Finance Minister — would establish clear and transparent criteria in line with international standards.

She said the protocol would include:

  • Disclosure of evaluation criteria for the assessment of bids at the outset;
  • Disclosure requirements of bidders to identify any conflicts of interest;
  • Reasonable timeframes for bid submissions including time for questions from bidders;
  • Release of tenders to all bidders at the same time and consistent application of the evaluation criteria across all bids.

Ms Cox said the procurement process was followed in the tendering for contracts on the new hospital and would become standard practice in all Government projects.

The changes — which shift management of capital projects from Works and Engineering to Finance —have been in the pipeline since the budget statement earlier this year.

Ms Cox said Government’s Financial Instructions —the guidelines for ensuring efficient use of public funds — were also being reviewed to produce “a single authoritative document on internal controls, procurement and project management.”

Ms Cox added that similar guidelines would also be extended to quangos such as the West End Development Corporation and the Bermuda Housing Corporation.