Sierra Leone: Finance Bill 2020 Struggles Through Parliament

After a protracted, tensed and heated debate, lawmakers on Tuesday night enacted the 2020 Finance Act, with some major amendments which among other things would provide for the imposition and alteration of taxes, give effect to the financial proposal of government and provide for other related matters.

The bill sought to amend ten Financial related Acts, including the Customs Tariff Act 1978, the Income Tax Act 2000, the Custom Act 2000, the Finance Act 2006, the Excise Act 1982, the National Commission for Privatization Act 2002, the Public Procurement Act 2016, the Public Financial Management Act 2016, the Extractive Industries Revenue Act 2018, and Fiscal Management and Control Act 2017.

Whilst the bill was at the committee stage, MPs voted that the Executive Director of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) be given the opportunity to be heard, but the motion was kicked against.

In his contribution, Hon. Abdul Kargbo made reference to commitments made by MPs during the debate on the 2019 Finance Act that, a procurement unit instead of a directorate be established at the Ministry of Finance, as NPPA was already in existence, but that such was never followed through.

He said lawmakers were never contacted for the establishment of procurement directorate in the Ministry of Finance.

He added that the NPPA has the mandate to provide capacity building for procurement officers, but that the said function has recently been high jacked by the directorate in the said ministry.

"We are here to make laws and not to incapacitate any institutions. For a year now, people have been impressed with the work of the NPPA, but we are now witnessing usurpation of powers by the Ministry of Finance," he said.

He added that the mandate of NPPA is to make regulations, but that the Finance Bill 2020 intends to divert that function to the Ministry of Finance.

He said the NPPA recently collected about Le70m and that their effort should not be stifled by the ministry.

"As we speak now, the repealing of the NPPA regulations has been forwarded to the draft by the Ministry of Finance. That function should be executed by the NPPA and not the ministry. If we approve this bill, it will erode the powers given to the NPPA. Let them cope with what they have and let the NPPA do their work," he said.

On his part, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) said the economy of the country cannot perform well without grants, and that the Finance Bill is the foundation of the budget presented by the Minister last Friday.

He said if job creation is to be achieved, there was need to increase and strengthen local manufacturing and production institutions in order to help create competition in the market.

He said there will be more problem if commercial banks are supervised by the Ministry of Finance instead of National Commission for Privatization (NCP) which has been doing a good job in terms of supervising the banks.

For Hon.Daniel Koroma, the essence of all finance bills are to enable government to raise funds needed, adding that the SLPP government has enough time to go back and review the bill.

Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sidie Tunis, said it will be a surprise to MPS that the Ministry of Finance has created a Procurement Directorate, adding that they will investigate the issue and subsequently reduce it to a unit as agreed during the 2019 finance bill debate.

He urged that other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should be consulted when changes are to be made as it is very important to them.

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