Following a heartbreaking end in the National Semifinals in 2011, men’s volleyball has reloaded and has the talent to contend for a National Title again.“We’ve got the talent to be good at the end of the year,” USC coach Bill Ferguson said. “But no matter the circumstances, we have to stick to the same formula — improve every day and compete like hell.”Spiked · Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli looks to lead the relatively young team this season. Though the Trojans lost three All-Conference players, they are currently ranked sixth. – Carlo Acenas | Daily TrojanWith last year’s playoff loss to UC Santa Barbara, the No. 5 Trojans graduated four starting seniors from Ferguson’s first recruiting class. Starting setter Riley McKibbin and opposite Murphy Troy finished their careers as first-team All-Americans while starting outside hitter Tri Bourne and middle blocker Austin Zahn finished with all-conference honors.Despite the loss of significant leadership, talent and firepower, the Trojans are focusing not on who they lost, but who’s replacing them.The Trojans return starters at outside hitter, middle blocker and libero. Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli and senior middle blocker Steven Shandrick, both returning starters, were voted team captains this year. The Trojans will also return sophomore libero Henry Cassiday, who started all of last season.But the spots vacated at setter, opposite, outside hitter and middle blocker were up for grabs throughout the preseason. Since then, Ferguson has settled on a starting lineup featuring two reserves from last year’s team as well as two true freshmen.Freshman Micah Christensen won the starting spot and tallied 35 assists leading to a team .667 hitting average in the season opener against Alberta. The 6-5 Christensen was the headliner of the 2011 recruiting class after starring in a variety of high school, club and international competitions as well as winning Hawaiian State Championships in basketball and volleyball.“Micah’s used to being the focal point of the team. He’s an outstanding teammate and competitor,” Ferguson said. “He has a lot of poise and maturity for his age.”Freshman Robert Feathers won the starting middle blocker spot alongside Shandrick.“Feathers has been the youngest guy on the team because he’s always played up in divisions when he played club,” Ferguson said. “Plus, he’s almost all work ethic and character. If he can’t do something, he’ll kill himself trying.”Redshirt junior Steven Mochalski is slated as the starting outside hitter alongside Ciarelli.“Mochalski will crush any ball, can block and is an effective passer,” Ferguson said.Redshirt sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen won the starting opposite spot after an intense competition with junior opposite Maddison McKibbin until McKibbin sprained his ankle during preseason training.Redshirt junior Jeff Carlson was the backup setter last year and has since been moved to outside hitter. Carlson’s versatile blend of skills and athleticism make him a key reserve as a setter, hitter, defender and server.“Carlson will start contributing very soon,” Ferguson said. “He can help us in a lot of different ways.”Though the leaders and stars of yesterday have moved on, the 2012 men’s volleyball team is still as formidable as ever.
The establishment of the five-member Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which is currently marred by delays before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), will see the phasing out of Cabinet’s role in giving its ‘no-objection’ to the procurement process.Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul SharmaThis is according to Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma, who noted that before this could come into effect the Public Procurement Commission would have to be in place.However, he pointed out that in the absence of such a Commission, then in accordance with the laws, Government would now have to increase the ceiling on contracts’ value that Cabinet is required to give its no-objection on.As it is presently, the Procurement Act provides for Cabinet to review contacts exceeding the value of $15 million. However, the Junior Finance Minister hinted that this amount could increase to $40 million to $50 million.According to the law, Cabinet and the Public Procurement Commission, upon its establishment, shall review annually, the Cabinet’s threshold for review of procurement, with the objective of increasing that threshold over time so as to promote the goal of progressively phasing out Cabinet’s involvement and decentralising the procurement process.“In the interim, if the Public Procurement Commission is not established, Cabinet should have been increasing (the ceiling) every year… The law stipulates that Cabinet’s role should be phased out and by Government increasing the limit, is an indication that we are going to phase out,” he stated.Sharma noted that when contracts were before Cabinet for its ‘no-objection’, Ministers were very vocal and objective about their positions and this often resulted in the process being stymied.“If a Minister objects to (a contract), the project will have to go back to the tender board and be re-evaluated and then returned back (to Cabinet) and that in itself is holding it up. So the Public Procurement Commission is needed,” he stated.Minister Sharma was at the time speaking with reporters after the opening ceremony of a one-day sensitisation workshop on public procurement hosted by CARIFORUM and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on Tuesday.During his remarks to the gathering, the Junior Finance Minister outlined that the delayed establishment of the Public Procurement Commission was not preventing Government from taking appropriate steps to ensure that there was a transparent and accountable procurement process.He noted that among the measures put in place by Government, in the interim, was increasing the limit on contracts processed at various levels, starting from the ministerial boards to the regional tender boards and then the National Tender Board.“Increasing limits assist the various boards to process larger amounts in terms of contracts so that they don’t have to send it to the National Board for considerations. So, at their level, they can facilitate that process,” he stated.Additionally, Sharma noted that Cabinet also looked at the proposal of increasing the number of evaluators available to Government. Currently, evaluators are made up of public servants such as Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Department.The Minister explained that “by increasing the number of evaluators, you make it possible for persons to meet on a regular basis so that they can evaluate and report to the various boards on that evaluation and the award will be made. So it’s an effort to speed up the process so contracts will be awarded …more speedily…”The Junior Finance Minister went on to say another step taken by Government to ensure transparency and accountability was the implementation of the ‘Bid Protest Committee’, which allows contractors who were not satisfied with the evaluation to make an objection to the process.He pointed out that already one company has made an objection to the Committee. That company is Cevon’s Waste Management Inc which filed objections to the award of the $221 million contract to Puran Brothers Inc for the management of the Haags-Bosch Landfill site at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.