The current economic challenges, including low government revenue, has made the constitution of the National Council on Public Procurement a necessity, experts say.
The council was established by an Act of the National Assembly, to serve as the governing body on issues relating to public procurement in Nigeria.
It is a high-level organ with approval powers on issues relating to the administration and management of public procurement under the Public Procurement Act of 2007.
Membership of the council was to be headed by the minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy as chairman.
Other members include the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, secretary to the government of the federation, the head of service of the federation and the chief economic adviser to the President.
The body also has six part-time members representing Nigeria Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, the Civil Society Group, the media as well as the director-general of the bureau who shall be the secretary of the council.
The council, by the provisions in the Act, is established to consider, approve and amend the monetary and prior review thresholds for the application of the provisions of this Act by procuring entities; it also considers and approves policies on public procurement and approves the appointment of the directors of the bureau.
The council is also expected to receive and consider, for approval, the audited accounts of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), approve changes in the procurement process to adapt to improvements in modern technology, give such other directives and perform such other functions as may be necessary to achieve the objectives of this Act.
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The aim of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, is to ensure accountability, transparency, and probity in the procurement process. It mandates members of the council who hold public office to cease to be members.
There are nine steps to be fulfilled in the public procurement procedures that contractors with projects must go through before this new threshold was introduced.
The first step is that each ministry, department and agency is expected to identify the business needs, and secondly, submit a purchase request.
The third step involves choosing a vendor/supplier, and negotiating terms and conditions.
The next step is to create a purchase order, receive and review goods/services, audit the order and lastly, give invoice approval and settlement.
Auwal Ibrahim, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, believes that successive government’s plan to control contracts may be the reason why the council was not instituted as required by law.
Ibrahim believes that it is in the best interest of the country for the President to inaugurate the council.
He said the Tinubu administration has not demonstrated to Nigerians that he is ready to fight corruption. “It is time for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to abandon the regular contract rituals and create room for transparency in public procurement and public spending.”
He also chided the BPP for failing to pursue the inauguration of the council, adding that it may have failed to do so because it is benefitting from the current system.
He said: “As you know, every government agency has a council; so it should not be different with the BPP, but it is possible that the current state of the agency favours the status quo which is why they do not think it necessary to put pressure on the President to constitute the body.
“As it is, the BPP director general reports directly to the President who also appoints him in the absence of the council.”
Raising concerns on how the FEC has over the years continued to award contracts, Ibrahim noted that FEC will cease to carry out such functions as soon as the council is constituted.
“Constituting the body will also erode the powers the President currently exercises at the FEC meetings, especially as it affects contract awards.”
Efforts to find out if the government had plans for the procurement body proved abortive as messages sent to Ajuri Ngelale, the President’s spokesman, were not responded to.