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Government is online with tenders but...

Tuesday November 5 2019

By JOHN WALUBENGO
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For some reason last week, I remembered the President saying that all public tenders and contracts shall be uploaded on a public portal as one other form of dealing with our long-time ailment called corruption.

So I searched for what I used to know as the Public Procurement Authority website. Google led me to their website that was also a dead end. This website has remained dead for the last week and I was ready to blast the government in this week’s article.

But I decided to give the President and his administration the benefit of doubt by searching – in general, rather than in particular - for any government tender related site.

It paid off.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a working website that was hosting comprehensive details of past, present and pending government tenders, awarded contracts, details of the winning suppliers as well as the contract amounts.

The portal even drills further and provides details about who else bid for a particular tender, who sat in the tender committee, who are the blacklisted suppliers amongst others.

Clearly, this must be the highest standard of transparency any government across the globe would be willing to ascribe to.

This government tender portal looked like the real deal - compared to the one the Jubilee party used during the 2017 campaigns to broadcast the 2013-2017 achievements.

WEAKNESS

The site has some useful details on tender details, amounts and winning suppliers. However, upon closer scrutiny, the good effort began to show some weakness.

First, for most of the tenders, members of the tender evaluation committees were missing. Secondly, the list of blacklisted suppliers remains empty – perhaps we have none so far but difficult to tell.

Thirdly, it is clear that not all ministries, state agencies, departments and parastatals are updating the portal frequently. Notably only twelve of our twenty-one or so ministries have bothered to get listed on the portal.

Finally, and most importantly, the details of the controversial tenders like the Standard Gauge Railway, Kimwarer and Arror dams, or the more recent Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands expressway do not seem to exist.

I however invited the readers to keep searching the portal for these more contentious tenders and share the details if and when they are more successful than I have been.

The public portal on government tenders is a great idea in as far as making the public sector more transparent and accountable to the people of Kenya – as it should always be.

COMPLETE DETAILS

It is however one thing to have a portal and quite another to ensure that the back-office process in terms of keeping the content updated regularly and in totality.

There should be an entity – perhaps the Ombudsman – mandated to ensure that all relevant procurement information by public entities are indeed populated in the site without delays and with complete details.

There should also be some mechanisms to penalise those who are not complying with a Presidential Executive Order.

Without such modalities, civil servants will relax and start looking out for the next Presidential Order that can be ignored.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu