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Mobilization for Execution of Capital Projects: Senate debates Amendment of Procurement Act

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By Henry Umoru

AS part of moves to improve on the execution of Capital Projects and  increase the mobilisation fees  paid to contractors and suppliers, the amendment of the National Council on Public Procurement and Bureau of Public Procurement Act by the Senate yesterday got a boost.

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At the Senate yesterday, a  Bill for an Act to amend the National Council on Public Procurement and Bureau of Public Procurement Act No. 14 of 2007 and for related matters, 2019(SB.106) sponsored by Senator Shuaibu Lau Isa, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Taraba North and a Bill for an Act to amend the National Council on Public Procurement and Bureau of Public Procurement Act No. 14 of 2007 and for related matters 2019 sponsored by Senator Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central scaled second reading.

The two Bills because of their similarities were consolidated by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan.

Meanwhile, speaking after debate on the general principles of the Bill to amend the Procurement Act,  President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said yesterday that amendment to the Public Procurement Act 2007 by the National Assembly will guarantee successful implementation of the 2020 budget.

Lawan who noted that the inadequacies of the Public Procurement Act 2007 were largely responsible for the very low level of budget implementation recorded annually, said that the National Assembly will expeditiously accelerate legislative work on the amendment of the Act so as to ensure it is passed and signed into law to compliment the 2020 budget.

The President of the Senate said, “Twelve years down the line, we have seen the strengths and weaknesses of the Act. Certainly, the last twelve years have revealed the inadequacies and loopholes that are in the Act.

“When we pass the Appropriations Bill 2020 before the end of the year, and the implementation commences from January, if this Act remains as it is today with unnecessary cumbersome processes of bidding, the time we would have gained from passing the budget will be lost in processing the budget for implementation.

“Just like we gave expeditious treatment to some of the bill passed recently, this is also important and significant because it will add value to the implementation of the 2020 Appropriations bill and so many issues that were raised about the weaknesses in the Procurement Act.”

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Earlier in the presentation of the lead debate on the general principles of the Bill, Lau stressed that the Public Procurement (PPA) Act 2007 which was signed into law on the June 4, 2007 was currently the root of most of the corruption in public procurement in Nigeria.

He said, “This is because of the observed serious loopholes and lacuna in the PPA 2007 which provides room for procuring entities and Bureau for Public Procurement to abuse and manipulate procurement process in the country.”

According to him,  the proposed Bill sought to remedy those anomalies by amending 57 sub sections and introducing 88 new subsections to the existing Act, adding, “The sections and the subsections of the Bill for  amendment I think are very important toward ensuring transparency accountability and good governance in the conduct of government business in Nigeria.”

Lau further said that Section 35 of the Bill proposed an upward review of the mobilisation fee to be given to contractors from 15 to 30 per cent to promote local contractors and ensure early completion of projects.

According to him,  Section 1 and 2 of the Act  provided for the composition and function of the National Council on Public Procurement which  had not been constituted due to some administrative problems since 2007.

“This issue is intended to be addressed by this Bill.

“Similarly, the Bill is proposing for contractors to submit to procuring entities, an insurance performance bond from a reputable insurance company for all local contracts and irrevocable bank guarantee for international contracts.”

He, however said that the Bill was timely and if passed into law would go a long to  strengthen the contract approval process and reduce the time framework to complete procurement cycle among others.

The bill proposes “A former President or Retired Chief Justice of the Federation” as an appointee eligible for consideration as Chairman of the National Council of Public Procurement.

The bill also proposed that membership of the committee must include the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

The bill, among others, seeks to provide term of office and removal from office for members of the Council which are not provided for in the existing Act.

On her part, Senator Ekwunife who noted  that the Bill was read for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 13, said that the proposed amendment was simple and uncomplicated, adding, “It merely recommends unambiguous amendments to specified provisions of the Act in order to improve the operational efficiency of the procurement process without adversely affecting the underlined purpose and the tenement of the Act.”

In his contribution, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) said that the Public Procurement Bill should be amended to make it compulsory for the Federal Government not to award contracts where funding is not readily available.

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On his part, the  Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, APC, Niger North who  called on the Senate to accommodate the interest of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the procurement processes, said that amendment to the Procurement bill should include provisions to make it mandatory for the patronage of locally produced goods and services.

He described the consideration of the bill as “timely”, called on the Senate “to fast-track it, so that the 2020 Appropriations bill when passed by the National Assembly, will be complimented by a brand new amended Procurement Act.”

In his contribution, Deputy Minority Leader Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP, Taraba South said that the  purpose behind the introduction of the Act in 2007 was primarily to address the issues associated with corruption in procurement processes.

Bwacha who  stressed that the objectives behind the bill had overtime been defeated because of the workings of government bureaucracies that encourages continuous sabotage, however  called for the inclusion of clauses in the Public Procurement Act under amendment to ensure that bureaucrats are prevented from sabotaging the fight against corruption.

He said, “There are things done deliberately by bureaucrats to steal public funds; often times, they have justifiable reasons to give to allow them divert public funds.”

On his part, Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North East) who commended the leadership of the upper chamber under Senate President Ahmad Lawan for considering to amend the Public Procurement Act, said that the amendment was yet another milestone that re-echoes the commitment of the Senate towards the realization of good governance in Nigeria.

Akpan who noted that  an amendment of the Act would ensure the effective implementation of the 2020 budget, particularly against the backdrop of the new budget timeline beginning in January next year, said, “If we (National Assembly) are able to achieve the January-December budget timeline, what is needed to drive the budget is the amendment of the Procurement Act”, the lawmaker stressed.

Akpan, who noted that the amendment of the Act should include adding value to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria, added that the issue on Contract Splitting is an important aspect that must not be over-looked so as to add value to the procurement process.

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On his part, Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West), said that  as Nigeria continues its quest for revenue sourcing, the country must put in place measures to streamline the application of all revenues generated, adding that  only an amendment to the Procurement Act can make this realizable.

The President of the Senate referred the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) bill to the Senate Committee on Public Procurement chaired by Senator Shuaibu Lau Isah for further legislative work and report back in two weeks.

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