Project managers, increased cabinet involvement among remedies – Harmon

… for slow implementation of PSIP

Government plans to deal with the slow pace of spending allocations for public sector investment programmes (PSIP) by tightening its top-down supervision of department and ministry spending, and seconding project managers to ministries.
This is according to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who revealed that while capital spending has been woefully slow, cabinet would now take an increased supervisory role.
Addressing media operatives at a post- cabinet press conference, Minister Harmon also disclosed that the Finance Minister has provided an extended Cabinet — which includes ministers within the ministries and the permanent secretaries of the ministries — with a report of spending under the public sector investment programme for the first half of 2017.
“The PSIP, with an allocation of $56.7 billion for 2017, is the main mechanism for Government spending. The report indicated that capital spending had been very slow in the initial months of 2017, but it improved significantly towards the end of the first half of the year,” Minister Harmon detailed.
Harmon said Cabinet was informed about the reasons behind the slothful implementation of projects under the PSIP. He related that discussions centred on finding ways and means to assist budget agencies to improve their capital spending.
Asked about the issues hindering implementation of the PSIP, Harmon said they included unfamiliarity with the procurement system by some of the permanent secretaries in the ministries.
“Many of the issues we highlighted in the first quarter had to do with unfamiliarity with the procurement system by some of the permanent secretaries in the ministries,” Harmon explained.
“Additionally, what they had to do was come to grips with the fact that VAT was actually being charged on some Government services; therefore, when the initial contracts were awarded, they did not include that, so that accounted for some amount of delay,” he explained.
Claiming that the way contracts were awarded had previously been criticised, Harmon said procuring entities have now been doing a lot of “checking and double-checking”, which has caused delays.

Project managers
According to the Minister of State, the Government is also looking to have Project Management Officers in all the Ministries. He said that while Government has commenced this measure, not all the Ministries have had these project officers seconded to them.
“Additionally, in the Ministries there was a recommendation that we employ Project Management Officers, who will be attached to each of these Ministries. And I believe that is having an effect already, because some of the Ministries already have these officers in there. And those that don’t have, the Finance Ministry (will) assist them,” Harmon explained.
“We also believe that the better streamlining of the procurement process — from the time that a contract is awarded up to the time that the mobilisation is given to the contract and he starts work — what we are trying to do is to narrow that gap, so that things can happen at a faster pace.”
Finance Minister Winston Jordan only recently admitted that Government is more than 30 per cent behind in its public sector investment.
The Minister made this admission during the opening of the Ministry’s budget 2018 preparation and sensitization training workshop on Monday. According to the Minister, at the end of June 2017, less than 30 per cent of the money intended for expenditure on the public sector investment programme (PSIP) had been expended.
In August 2015, months after entering office, the coalition Government presented its first budget. A second budget soon followed, in January, for the fiscal year 2016. And a third budget was presented in November 2016, before the start of fiscal year 2017. Government plans to unveil its fourth budget, for fiscal year 2018, in November of this year.
But despite this, the continuously slow rate of Government spending, due to poor planning from budget agencies and execution from the relevant departments, remains a contributing factor to slow overall economic growth rate. It is a fact that even the Finance Minister has acknowledged.
But this backlog comes against the backdrop of deficiencies in services provided by regional officials.