The ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs failed to explain the claims of financial irregularities in the procurement of the Huduma Kenya smart service and payment card as it pleaded to MPs for time to put its house in order.
Appearing before Administration and National Security committee of the National Assembly, the ministry led by Chief Administrative Secretary Rachael Shebesh, Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo and Huduma Centre CEO Dennis Mutuku, were unable to offer satisfactory answers on how the project was awarded to four financial institutions.
It also emerged that the three financial institutions awarded the tender did not have the technical capacity and payment card distribution network.
Things got tough for the ministry as Mr Mutuku failed to explain the rationale upon which the identification of the smart service was based.
Ms Shebesh, who was quiet throughout as Mr Mutuku was inundated with questions, surprised the MPs when she said that the Huduma secretariat had not briefed the ministry about the service.
“I was not briefed about the supplementary questions prior to coming here and neither was the PS. I wish to disassociate myself on what has been said here on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary,” Ms Shebesh said as she requested MPs for more time to put their house in order.
The firms that won the tender to supply the smart card are Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity bank and Commercial Bank of Africa.
The Huduma service, which has won Kenya accolades around the world, is a response to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call that all Huduma centre be a one stop shop digital payment instrument in the country.
The strategy involves the development of a unified and integrated multi-channel payment gateway to facilitate ease of payment for government service through debit card, Mpesa PayPal among others.
The committee is investigating the manner in which the service providers were procured.
“The committee wants to know whether there was any feasibility study, policy guidelines or cabinet decision prior to engaging in the programme and committing the government with the service providers,” committee chairman Mr Paul Koinange (Kiambaa) sought to know.
It also seeks to identify the criteria for costing and sharing of revenue in the contractual arrangement between the government and the service providers.