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Public procurement council to be inaugurated!

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Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami

When will the National Procurement Council be inaugurated? When will the President allow the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to share some powers with the legal Council on Public Procurement generally known as ‘contracts award’ at the federal level?

Answers to these 11-year-old questions will no longer blow in the wind, as theCouncil will be inaugurated sooner than later.

This is official, thanks to the wind of change subscription to the strategic “Open Government Partnership” is fast bringing to the way corruption is being fought in the country.

Throughout last week, I was an active participant at the “Open Government Week” in Abuja where a reference to the absence of the Public Procurement Council since 2007 as part of some hindrance to an ‘open government’ led to the confirmation of government readiness to inaugurate the long neglected Public Procurement Council.

In fact, it was confirmed by the Permanent Secretary in Charge of General Services Office (GSO) in the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Day Four of the 5-day conference.

The Permanent Secretary, GSO Mr. Olusegun Adekunle represented the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha who was present at the Monday opening ceremony the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo declared open.

In response to my observation and a written question by a participant on when the Procurement Council would indeed be inaugurated since 2007 when the then President Umaru Yar’Adua signed it into law, the Permanent Secretary said, “the Council has in fact been constituted and its inauguration will be done very soon”. And a spontaneous applause followed the clear answer to an 11-year old conundrum and anxiety – for inauguration of the Council.

That was part of the highlights of the Open Government Week 2018, which ended at the weekend in Abuja.

The conclusion of the whole matter is that sooner than later, President Muhammadu Buhari will take the glory of inaugurating the first ever Public Procurement Council (as provided by law) to deepen public engagement and involvement in procurement processes, being the focal points of corruption in public service.

Specifically, three past presidents have failed to inaugurate the Council.

President Olusegun Obasanjo government actually prepared the executive bill and failed to sign it into law. But he did not veto it. So it was with Fiscal Responsibility Bill, he also failed to sign into law as submitted too by the Clerk National Assembly then in 2007.

On June 4, 2007 the then President Yar’Adua signed it into law. But he failed to inaugurate the Council, which would have removed contracts award from the FEC thathas been acting as Tenders Board – till date.

Curiously, despite promises made during the 2015 election, President Muhammadu Buhari too has failed to inaugurate the National Council on Public Procurement, (NCPP) as required by the Public Procurement Act 2007.

Instead, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, under the leadership of the president, continues to usurp the most important function of the NCPP: approval of contracts.

The Public Procurement Act provides for the establishment of the NCPP, and the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, as the regulatory authorities responsible for the monitoring and oversight of public procurement as well as harmonising existing government policies and practices.

The Act was put in place to allow transparency and ensure public participation in government procurement.

Although President Yar’Adua, who signed the bill into Law, failed to inaugurate the NCPP until his death in office, his successor, Goodluck Jonathan, who stayed in office for six years also failed to inaugurate the Council.

In fact, President Jonathan’s spokesperson, Dr. Rueben Abati once asked The Guardian a rhetorical question in a story I did on the thorny issue for the newspaper as Abuja Bureau Chief: “What would you want the FEC to do after inauguration of the Council”, he asked. Which explained why an amendment Bill was sent to the Session of the National Assembly then.

The amendment had sought to remove the power of Tenders approval from the Council and retain it in FEC.

Membership of the Council according to the Act should comprise 12 members to be appointed by the President. While six of the members are government officials, the other six are drawn from relevant professional organisations.

Those from the government side, considered permanent members, include the Minister of Finance, who serves as Chairman, and the Director General of the BPP as Secretary.

Others are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Service, and the Economic Adviser to the President.

Those representing professional bodies are drawn from the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management, the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agriculture, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, a representative of Civil Society Organisations and the media.

The FEC, the constitution provides as Executive Council of the Federation is made up the president, the vice president, all the ministers and some presidential advisers; meaning the president and his political appointees who are all less likely to question his decisions.

The failure of the government to set up the Council has meant the FEC continues to approve contracts to be executed by its members.

It will be recalled that candidate Buhari had in a document circulated during the 2015 campaigns titled ‘My covenant with Nigerians’ promised to “inaugurate the National Council on Procurement as stipulated in the Procurement Act so that the Federal Executive Council, which has been turned to a weekly session of contract bazaar, will concentrate on its principal function of policy making”.

Although after assuming office, the president disowned the document. A fact check latershowed that the ruling All Progressives Congress wrote it.

The document was said to have been produced by the policy and research directorate of the APC presidential campaign, headed by current Minister of Solid Minerals Development and former Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, when the party was trying to convince Nigerians to abandon the then ruling party, PDP.

You will recall that I had on September 16, 2016 written on the same issue here in an article titled: “Where is the Public Procurement Council? (https://guardian.ng/opinion/where-is-nigerias-public-procurement-council/)

Below is an excerpt from the column (article), which addresses the urgency of thepublic procurement council.

“…But then it is time for the president to overhaul the federal bureaucracy to prevent corruption.

And here is the thing, even if the president continues ruthlessly alone as a fundamental objective without involving the civil service of the federation, even by 2019, the result will be that yes, he fought some corrupt people without really fighting corruption. And so the war would have been lost…

Therefore, the president should step forward and use an existing law to begin institutionalization of the anti-graft war at the highest level.

This will be through an Act of the National Assembly that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’adua put in place.

It is the Public Procurement Act, 2007. In a bid to institutionalize the war on official corruption, the then President Obasanjo had set the tone with three Bills: Public Procurement Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Bill Freedom of Information Bill.

These bills were part of the government public sector reform agenda of the administration. The Fiscal Responsibility & Public Procurement Bills were harmonized for Obasanjo’s assent before May 29, expiry date of his administration.

But curiously, he could not sign them. The National Assembly then was serious and they curiously preserved the two Bills for President Yar’Adua who signed them into law on June 4, 2007 and July 30, 2007 respectively.

The Freedom of Information Bill, which was also ready in Obasanjo’stime was not signed into law until May 28, 2011 by the then President GoodluckEbele Jonathan.

It is, however, instructive to note that neither President Yar’Adua nor Jonathan was ready to implement the most important provision in the Public Procurement Act throughout their tenures. The most important provision in the law is establishment of “National Council on Procurement” to be chaired by the Minister of Finance….”

There are some remarkable lessons that have emerged from the last week’s OGP Week that citizens should be interested in. I am persuaded that (we the) citizens should be interested in what we cando to make government accountable and transparent within this context.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation, which also engenders responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation.

The OGP process brings together, government and civil society champions of reforms who recognize that governments are more likely to be more effective and credible when governance is made open to public input and oversight.

The OGP was launched to provide international platform for national activists committed to making their governments more accountable, and more responsive to citizens in their quest for transparency.

At the national level, the OGP introduces a domestic policy mechanism where the Government and civil society can have continuous dialogues on effective transparency policies.

At the international level, the OGP provides a global platform to connect, empower and support domestic reformers committed to transforming governments and societies through openness.

It is indeed a multilateral initiative aimed at securing solid commitments from Governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

In 2011, the OGP was formally launched when governments of Brazil, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States endorsed the Open Government Declaration and went further to announce their individual country action plans. The success of the OGP process per country, lies in the implementation of the National Action Plan, as it provides an organizing framework for international networking and incentives.

In July, 2016, Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as the 70th country.

Nigeria’s joining of the OGP process demonstrates a strong political will to dismantle existing structures, which have assisted long presence of corruption, including opacity, and ineffective governance caused by lack of accountability in the country’s institutions.

*Details of lessons from Nigerian experts and other beneficiaries including the U.K, U.S and others next week. Wait for Lessons too from the British High Commission, the United States and our own NGO impresario Dr. OtiveIgbuzor and a technocrat Dr. Joe Abah who have great lessons to share.

Then, dubious businessmen and corruptible civil servants who will no longer have places to hide should wait for more stuff from inside the eventful OGP Week at Barcelona Hotel, Abuja.

What’s more, read about the power of the FOI Act too as the most powerful law to fight corruption in the country that we even journalists have not been using well.


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