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The Jonathan Govt Is Not Addressing Issues

Published by Guardian on Tue, 28 Feb 2012

WHEN in mid January this year President Goodluck Jonathan announced the constitution of the Kolade Committee to monitor contracts arising from the palliatives of the oil subsidy removal, which gave birth to SURE-P, every knowledgeable Nigerian knew that the committee could not stand the test of time. This much we demonstrated through a press release of January titled: Jonathan's Reinvestment Committee Unconstitutional, Fraudulent.Less than a month in the implementation of the SURE-P document, we have been vindicated in our submissions, judging by the developments in the last few days. First, it was President Jonathan that announced at a PDP rally in Cross River State that the SURE-P document was no longer realistic. He went further to direct that the document be removed from circulation, with a promise that a new one would be issued.As if that was not enough disappointment to Nigerians, he informed the gathering that 'we can no longer deliver on the palliatives promised Nigerians.' In other words, the president is no longer SURE of SURE-P!Before Nigeria could fathom the right approach to addressing this disappointing news, our president released more venom. In an interview with TELL magazine last week, he said that he would invite the World Bank team to re-vet contracts awarded by MDAs and vetted by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), which has exceeded the 'No Objection Certificate'.In other words, the president is telling us those certificates are potent or simply that they are illegal. An assurance by the World Bank cannot remove a statutory requirement that BPP can give for the withdrawal of money from the Treasury.Though the World Bank can inspect the books and records of the BPP under Section 38(5) of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) where money is involved such as the Economic Reforms and Governance Project (ERGP), it cannot be involved in the management or award of contracts under this process. The questions and concerns of well-meaning Nigerians is, why is President Jonathan's government afraid to constitute and inaugurate the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP), a body statutorily saddled with the responsibility of driving the procurement process, which is 100 percent contract awards, evaluation and audit'A careful review of the terms of references for the Committees and Task Forces show a clear duplication of the works of the Economic Team, the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and more, the proposed National Council on Public Procurement, as contained in Section 1 of the PPA. While there are clear statutory provisions set out to achieve most of the objectives listed as terms of references for the committees, they are at the mercy of the president to dissolve them at will.In his address to the professional groups in Lagos, after his swearing-in last year, the president promised that professionals would drive his administration's economic direction. Yet, less than three months after that speech, he began to assemble his team without inputs from the professionals. On January 1 this year, he unleashed unto Nigerians one of the worst, unplanned economic policies ever, by unilaterally removing 100 percent oil subsidy, which is still a source of pains for many today.Putting these facts together can only mean that the president is confused. Several questions for determination include whether the president and his Economic Team understand the implications of these glaring violations of the extant laws on public procurement' Does the Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) have the moral capacity to remain in office while the president and his team constantly violates our laws' And does this imply the rule of law and transparency this administration promised Nigerians'By virtue of the provisions of section 5(1) and 148(1) of the 1999 Constitution as well as the Finance and Management Control Act 1958, only a National Council on Public Procurement, with the Hon Minister of Finance as Chairman, can consider, approve and amend the monetary and prior review thresholds for the application of the provisions of Public Procurement Act 2007 by procuring entitles.The one presently in use, as approved in the Federal Government Circular No Ref: SGF/OP/1/S.3/VIII/57 of 11th March 2009 on thresholds, as released by the SGF and approved by the president, excluded the thresholds for Legislative and the Judicial arms of Government, even though it was also addressed to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of the Judicial Council, the Clerk of the National Assembly and other Officials of the Executive.Section 2(b) of the PPA gives the Council the power to 'consider and approve the Federal policies on public procurement.'Therefore, the various Committees and Task Forces, Presidential and Ministerial, set up by this administration are not only illegal; they lack the capacity and technical know-how to direct the process. They, on other hand, can only serve as conduit pipes for siphoning public funds, while the same old people are being recycled at the expense of Nigerian youths.Curiously, all these committees and task forces have overlapping roles, with each linked to contract management. Ironically, the same World Bank that the president proposes to invite has since given a verdict on procurement process, which accounts for over 60 percent of corruption in the public sector in the 2000 Country Procurement Assessment Report.From the above challenges, the setting up of these committees is not only alarming and unfortunate, but also inconsistent with the policy direction of the Jonathan administration.There is only one clear step that the president can take to assure Nigerians that he, indeed, meant well. It is for him to inaugurate the Council on Procurement and set up the BPP in the legal and statutory way for it to perform the duty and help reduce corruption in the system. This is the only masquerade haunting our president and his team!' Attah is the National Coordinator, Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative.
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