In efforts to avoid corruption in the Small Business Procurement Programme, which seeks to ensure that 20 per cent of Government contracts go to small firms, the Small Business Bureau (SBB) is undertaking a series of measures to vet companies registering for the programme. This was revealed by Chief Executive Officer of SBB, Dr Lowell Porter, at the Bureau’s year end press conference on Tuesday, where he announced that the programme will kick off in January.Stakeholders have expressed that such a programme creates the possibility for corruption, especially with established businesses wanting to take advantage of the initiative by posing as a ‘small business’. However, according to Dr Porter, the Bureau has taken steps to detect and prevent this from occurring.“[The businesses] have to register and during that process, we have to verify [their authenticity]. We have developed MoUs (Memorandums of Understanding) with GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority and NIS (National Insurance Scheme). And we believe that once we have those applications, we will try to verify if that person or company is indeed a small business; if they have submitted returns that is outside of the criteria for small business,” the CEO explained.Moreover, Dr Porter posited that another step the SBB has taken to thwart corruption with the programme is by using a ‘points system’ which will not only ensure that genuine businesses benefit from the contract procurement scheme, but also give those business the preference.“We would have a point system so if it’s an approved small business that was in business from before, that we know of, it gets more points than someone that just started… So you can go around now and start your business but you will be on a lower [points] scale because you get started. [Even though] you might have the capacity, this is the only way we can actually make this fair,” Dr Porter contended.While it the Bureau is playing its part in ensuring that approved small businesses benefit from the programme, the SBB CEO reminded that this is the first time that the initiative is being launched and there will be some loopholes that they will have to be corrected in the future.Nevertheless, with the Small Business Procurement Programme set to roll out in January, Dr Porter is calling on small businesses to register in order to be qualified to benefit from the initiative. “You have to be an approved supplier before you can be part of the programme. Small Business Bureau has that authority to approve so that means you have to register with the Bureau. We’re trying to see if we can have all the firms ready, we already have people coming in to ask about it because they saw it in the papers and on the news… We want every small business that is capable to have a bite,” asserted the Bureau’s CEO.The provision of 20 per cent contracts for small business was passed into law under the Small Business Act since 2004 but its implementation was only announced a year ago. And after months of preparation, Cabinet approved the programme back in October.In its last Annual report laid in the National Assembly back in July, the SBB highlighted the need for Government to award more contracts to small businesses as catered for in the law, which states: “The Government shall use its best endeavours to ensure that at least twenty per cent of the procurement of goods and services required annually by the Government is obtained from small businesses.”During this year, work had to be done to put together a policy framework that looks at, among other things, monitoring the number of small businesses that will benefit from the programme. There was also work done on syncing the Procurement Act with the Small Business Act to ensure that they complement each other.Recently, Business Minster Dominic Gaskin emphasised the need to have this programme up and running.“This programme is so important that it must begin and we must start collecting the data to show what percentage of Government procurement is going to small businesses so that we can make annual adjustments going forward until we hit the 20 per cent target provided for in the Small Business Act of 2004,” he posited.