Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been urged to implement anti-graft laws in public procurement as all ministries and departments handling large procurements are engrossed in malpractices.
This comes on the backdrop of scandals in procuring medical supplies to mitigate the pandemic. The President’s wish, therefore, is to enhance transparency and seal loopholes through which the government loses millions of shillings.
This a good starting point and a step towards dealing with pervasive looting of public resources. But we argue that the directive should extend to all government tenders. Importantly, the President has to find a way of enforcing the directive.
For starters, all ministries and departments handling large procurements are engrossed in malpractices. When the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act was enacted in 2015, the aim was to create fairness in tendering and eliminate abuse.
For good measure, the law created various bodies, including the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA), to manage procurement and provide oversight.
In 2014, the government embarked on an e-procurement system in a bid to create openness. But it did not work. Procurement details for many big projects are never publicised online to reach a wide network of suppliers and open themselves up to public scrutiny. This despite there being a vibrant legal regime for dealing with violation of procedure.
The problem is not a lack of procedures and rules but, plainly, there is little goodwill to make procurement processes transparent because it is the surest conduit for stealing from the public. Indeed, the war against corruption should largely focus on the procurement chain.
A study by the Institute of Economic Affairs two years ago identified the stages of violations of procurement processes, specifically, during contract awarding, order and payment, and management. Information on procurement is available.
President Kenyatta should push for enforcement of the relevant laws and procedures on procurement to end perennial theft through the process.