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 programmes, in particular those that are under his portfolio and leadership.
John Dean Kuku made this reminder in a statement following Finance Minister Harry Kuma’s statement in parliament during the motion of sine die which was also carried by the Solomon Star newspaper on 11 December 2021.
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(Amendment) Bill 2021 as part of the government’s reform agenda however, went on to reveal that the Bill will be withdrawn in 2022 quoting that “major targeted legal issues that require Parliament’s consideration were already formalized by a Gazette in 2018”.
But Kuku questioned why it took the government three years to realise that the targeted legal issues were already formalised 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?” Kuku asked.
He said 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, Kuku highlighted the failure of the government to pursue passage of the Customs and Excise Validation (Amendment) Bill 2021.
He 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 authorised 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?”.
“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.
“Everything said by the Minister is on record therefore I find it very difficult to comprehend his persistent denial of facts.”
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.
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.
Kuku said 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.”