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ISLAMABAD: The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Board has refused to make special amendments to rules for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to hire lobbyists/PR firms abroad, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

The Cabinet Division, sources said, through a letter of December 28, 2021 stated that in view of the direction of the Federal Cabinet, Law and Justice Division was requested to suggest amendment in the Public Procurement Rules, 2004 to resolve issues being faced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in hiring (Lobbyist/PR firms) abroad. Accordingly, Law and Justice Division has proposed amendments in the Public Procurement Rules, 2004.

Cabinet Division has forwarded the proposed draft notification for consideration/approval by the PPRA Board wherein insertion of sub-clause (va) in rule 42 (c) of Public Procurement Rules2004 has been proposed as follows:-42(c) Direct Contracting: A procuring agency shall only engage in direct contracting if the following conditions exist, namely: “procurements involving strategic importance and vital national interest”.

Director General (M&E), PPRA explained that as per the section 26 of PPRA Ordinance, 2002 the Federal Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Ordinance. Section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance explicitly defines the procedure for exemption from the applicability of the provisions of PPRA Ordinance and rules/regulations made thereunder in case of national interest.

As per the requirement of this section, only the Federal Government can grant exemption on the prior recommendation of the Authority. Hence, introducing any such rule taking into account the national importance, will be against the purpose of the ordinance, and will be ultra-vires with the provisions of parent statute.

Secretary Finance who is also Chairman of the Authority, showed bafflement to the Ministry of Law and Justice ignoring this provision of PPRA Ordinance while proposing the same rule.

PPRA rules: LNG cargoes given 6-month exemption

Secretary Industries & Production argued that the Federal Government is the Competent Authority under section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance, 2002 whereas in alternative methods of procurement under rule 42 of Public Procurement Rules, 2004, PAO is the Competent Authority to procure Goods, Works and Services in case of emergency and as such approval of Federal Government is not required under alternative method of procurement.

DG (M&E) explained that emergency is defined in PPRA rules and is attributed to natural calamities such as disasters, accidents and wars which may give rise to abnormal situation requiring prompt and immediate action to limit or avoid damage to person or property or environment. In such cases, there may not be any sufficient time to seek the concurrence of the Federal Government through adopting the procedure of section 21 of PPRA Ordinance. Almost same is the case for extreme urgency which is attributed to unforeseeable circumstances.

However, the provision of Section 21 of PPRA Ordinance is entirely different, wherein exemption is sought on the basis of national interest only, and national interest is attributed to the circumstances attributed towards the nation as a whole.

After deliberations, the Board decided that no amendments/addition in the rules and regulation can be proposed in conflict with the parent statute, ie, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002. Exemption in cases of national interest may be considered under the procedure already prescribed in section 21 of the PPRA Ordinance, 2002. Law and Justice Division may be consulted on the stance of PPRA.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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