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Finance Bill 2020: Retain Section 17 Of Principal Act - CSJ Tells NASS

A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has called for the retention of Section 17 of the Principal Act in the proposed amendment, as contained in a Memorandum entitled, "Finance Bill 2020 and the Public Procurement Act Of 2007, submitted by Centre for Social Justice Limited by Guarantee to National Assembly lawmakers and Journalists, a copy made available to Business Pioneer. The centre also, frowned at the move to amend 12 Acts of the National Assembly with just one Act of 39 pages, saying the competences and expertise required to attend to the subjects covered by these laws are too wide to be considered in just one amendment bill. Addressing newsmen in Abuja recently, the lead director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere explained that there was only one government, one Ministry of Finance and procurement needed to reflect the arms of government. According to him, creating second level approving authorities in the Federal Executive Council for the Executive, National Assembly Tender's Board for the Legislature and National Judicial Council Tender's Board for the judiciary runs counter to best practices. In it justification, the lead director cited Nigeria's Country Procurement Assessment Report June 2000 which warned against such move. According to the report, once a law on public procurement has been enacted and regulations, manuals and standard bidding document issued carrying out public procurement including contract awards will clearly be an administrative function, the mechanics of which should be disengaged from the executive. The report noted, "currently, high level politicians such as Governors, Ministers, and Commissioners are operationally involved in the procurement process. It pointed out that under the reformed procurement system, high level politicians should maintained their overall managerial oversight responsibilities while leaving administrative and operational matters (including procurement) to the civil servants. Onyekpere said " when this recommendation is juxtaposed with the intended amendment, it becomes quite easy to assert that this amendment is not in line with best practices. The CSJ boss maintained that the implication of continuing of this new path may lead to a situation where the Nigerian President or the Chief Justice of Nigeria would be cited for procurement fraud. Section 17 of the Principal Act stated: "subject to the monetary and prior review thresholds for procurements in his Act as may from time to time be determined by the council, the following shall be the approving authority for the conduct of public procurement: (a) in the case of (1) a government agency, parastatal or corporation, a parastatals Tender Board and (11) a Ministry or extra -ministerial entity, the Ministerial Tender board. The Finance Bill 2020 seeks to amend the Capital Gains Act, Companies Income Tax Act Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment Act , Customs and Excise Tariff, etc, (Consolidated ) Act, Value Added Tax Act, Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act, Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act, Companies and Allied Matters Act and the Public Procurement Act. Onyekpere maintained that it was simply too ambitious to propose to amend 12 Acts of the National Assembly with just one Act of 39 pages, pointing out that competences and expertise required to attend to the subjects covered by these laws are too wide to be considered in just one amendment bill. He said, "these laws are too fundamental to our economic management to contemplate amending them in a hurry. They require due contemplation, deep consultations with stakeholders and their presentation and consideration as single bill that would be considered with their merits. Lumping them together serves no useful purpose. Hence, the issues contained in this bill be considered separately. Onyekpere added.

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