Experts blame weak legislation for PPP failure

Experts blame weak legislation for PPP failure

Experts at the just-concluded African Engineering Conference, organised by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, have blamed the failure of public-private partnership on weak laws.

It also featured the society’s Annual General Meeting and the UNESCO African Engineering Week.

The events were held at the Tropicana Conference Centre with the Federation of African Engineering Organisation (FAEO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO).

Over 600 delegates from across the world attended. Its theme was “Adequate, reliable and sustainable energy in Africa.”

In his presentation entitled: “Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit:  Beyond the limitation of finance in public-private partnership and project procurement options,” Senator IyiolaOmisore said the global perspective of PPP is that it remains the best approach to infrastructural growth.

He noted that although the PPP model had been deployed to execute a few public projects, its value has been mostly felt in Lagos State, where the authorities have partnered the private sector on design, finance and management of public utilities.

Outside the state, he said, infrastructure procurement by states is still tied to the old model of contract awards to private firms to execute a project designed and financed by the government. For this reason, the country has fared poorly.

“The critical point to be made here is that, though there seems to be shortage of investable funds in the international market, but Nigeria’s crisis seems compounded by the integrity profile of our legal framework for an ideal PPP model,” he said.

Omisore said without going into the details of the shortfalls in the legal framework, “suffice to say, however,  that  the  Infrastructure Concession Regulatory  Commission    (ICRC) Act  of  2005, the Public Procurement Act 2007 regulations issued by ICRC governing  the  PPP process and  various state laws as described in each state’s PPP policies,  fall  short  of necessary regulatory framework for proper implementation of  PPP projects, most  importantly  with respect  to  dispute resolution during the tenor of the contract and drew attention to the absence of political will to see through the policies of previous administration.

He said because   concessionaires  are  aware  of  a  negative   tendency  by  a new  administration not  to honour to  the letter, the tenets of an arrangement  by a departed  administration,    they  are often inclined to speed up the inauguration of projects, irrespective of its stage of completion, before the expiration of tenure of the awarding  administration.  And except there  is a  determination  that a PPP succeed,  there are vested  interests   in  a  country to  ensure  that  the  governments initiative  to  promote PPP  as  a  policy  fail.

“PPP projects often  encounter  serious  resistance  from  labour unions,  civil  service  employees and  sundry   socio-economic  interest groups,” Omisore said, adding that the  general  public sometimes misunderstand  PPP out of ignorance and  on the strategic  importance of PPP in a  nation’s socio-economic development.

He said PPP are  meant to  be  contractual arrangements   between  the public  and  private sectors of  the economy, in which  responsibilities, risks and  obligations are  to  be  shared  by  both  sides   in  order  to  guarantee  the  greatest benefits to the public.

He regreted that in Nigeria, a segment of  the  public  service  operators tend  to see the private  sector concessionaires  as the  enemies that  would deprive them  of  their  jobs, therefore,  to  be overcome at  all cost. This, he said, is  often  achieved  when  some rules in the civil service are exhumed to advise  the government on why all of a PPP undertaking, or some aspects of  PPP  project  agreement  should  not  be honoured, thereby leading to the government unilaterally rebidding on contracts voluntarily entered.

“Moreso, with a weak legal  framework, under which concessionaires cannot be protected, the tendency is for the  private  sector operators, both from within and from outside of the country, to be wary  of doing business with government. Thus, timely procurement of public utilities suffers and the socio-economic development and the country is the worst for it,” he regretted.

The outgoing President, Otis Anyaeji FNSE, thanked Omisore for touching on a crucial aspect affecting the industry by harping on the opportunities that PPP model brings.

Anyaeji called on engineers to see beyond the threshold of career limitations and be creative in their service.

Another speaker, Director of Operations of General Electric, Mr. UzoEzimora, one of the operators of the Nigerian Railway project under the PPP model, emphasised that no government anywhere in the world can fund infrastructural development.

Corroborating Omisore, he beckoned on engineering firms to form formidable partnerships or mergers to pull resources to meet the requisite qualifications for government’s advertised jobs on engineering and projects.

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