The Leader of the Independent Group in Parliament has reminded the Minister of Finance and Treasury to be truthful and consistent in his responses when informing parliament of government policies and programs, in particular those that are under his portfolio and leadership.
Hon Kuku made this reminder following Hon Kuma’s statement in parliament during the motion of sine die which was also carried by the Solomon Star newspaper on 11 December 2021.
Hon Kuma referred to the Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill 2021 as part of the government’s reform agenda however, went on to reveal that the Bill will be withdrawn in 2022 quoting that “major targeted legal issues that require Parliament’s consideration were already formalized by a Gazette in 2018”.
The Leader of the Independent Group questioned why it took the government three years to realize that the targeted legal issues were already formalized in the 2018 Gazette. Was it not that those issues were only brought to light by the Bills and Legislation Committee in its scrutiny of the Bill?
Hon Kuku stated that the Object of the Bill was to (a) give effect to the HS Code 2017 on and from 1st October 2018; and (b) validate the import duty rates and export duty rates levied and collected under the Customs and Excise Act on and from 1st October 2018.
In his contribution to the motion of no confidence last week, Hon John Dean Kuku highlighted the failure of the government to pursue passage of the Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill 2021.
The Leader pointed out that the collection of duties by way of import and export duties under the Customs and Duties Act (Cap. 121) under the Harmonized System (HS) Code 2017 from October 1, 2018 was never authorized by law which was a serious matter.
“If I have misguided Parliament as stated by the Minister, which I strongly deny, can the Minister explain why the Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill seeks to regulate the collection of export and import duties since October 1 2018?” Mr. Kuku questioned.
“This implies or suggests that the Minister is seeking to rectify or, to use a crude word, “cover-up” a blunder caused by the government through the Ministry of Finance in the collection of unauthorized customs duties under the HS Code 2017”.
The Leader further added “everything said by the Minister is on record therefore I find it very difficult to comprehend his persistent denial of facts”.
Hon Kuku further noted that the same ministry who was responsible for issuing drafting instructions for the Bill has backtracked on its own policy intention and is now saying that all is well and therefore intends to withdraw it in 2022.
The Leader advised that the government through the Ministry of Finance simply lacked the political will and diligence to withdraw the Bill to prevent us arriving at this dilemma.
Mr. Kuku also stressed the importance of being truthful, which he believes the Minister has consistently failed to meet this standard.
The Bills and Legislation Committee report on the Bill has recommended withdrawal and redrafting of the Bill due to possible infringement of the Constitution.
The Leader concluded that what transpired from the Minister’s remarks were misfired denials which he apparently came out of unscathed.
However, what cannot be denied is we are now in the festive season hence I warmly wish the Minister a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022.
BELOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT BY KUMA LAST WEEK
INDEPENDENT LEADER MISGUIDED STATEMENT CLARIFIED
Minister of Finance and Treasury, Hon. Harry Kuma, corrected the misguided statement made by the Leader of the Independent Group, Hon Dean Kuku, on the Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill 2021, when contributing on the Motion of Sine Die.
The Minister confirmed that as part of Government’s reforms, Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill 2021 was prepared and has been progressed for second reading in Parliament.
However, the Minister revealed that the Bill will be withdraw in early 2022, since the major targeted legal issues that require Parliament’s consideration were already formalized through a gazette in 2018. The Minister revealed that the Ministry intends to review the Bill with the intention to retain specific parts of the amendment for Parliament’s approval in 2022.
The Minister also revealed that the other two important Bills, namely the National Payment System Bill and the Tax Administration Bill, are also year marked to be tabled in Parliament in 2022.
The Minister confirmed that the National Payments System Bill 2021 was tabled in Parliament Office in October, 2021 and was reviewed by the Bills and Legislative Committee. It was also confirmed that the Tax Administration Bill, is currently with the Legal Drafts Office in the Attorney General Chambers for proofreading, and will be tabled in Parliament before the end of this year.
Minister Kuma also revealed that a major tax legislative reforms is also currently underway and one of the first Bill under the reform is schedule to be presented to Parliament in 2022. The project is part of ADB assistance on Tax Reforms and Revenue Management System upgrade.