WASIKE: Treasury must end procurement chaos - Daily Nation

Treasury must end procurement chaos

Tuesday June 12 2018

Kennedy Ogeto

Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto (left) and DPP Noordin Haji. A court order that suspended government directive to send heads of procurement and accounting on compulsory leave for 30 days for fresh vetting to be done will remain in force until Wednesday. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By CHRIS WASIKE
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President Uhuru Kenyatta has struck the right cord and must be supported by all to keep his eye on the ball for the desired results in the fight against corruption.

It is amazing that, except for salaries — whether in the public or private sector — any other expenditure is through supply chain process and yet not much attention is given to the calibre of officers who carry out this noble assignment.

It is inimical to good governance to have unprepared shepherds superintend such a critical function, determining profits or losses for organisations. Supply chain needs to be elevated to a strategic function for organisations to savour its worth.

The Constitution is the supreme law, the instrument of governance — albeit in general principles. To be effective, this charter is then subjected to enactment of various pieces of legislation (statutes) to address the ‘what’ aspect. Life is breathed into the statute through regulations. This explains the ‘how’ — the software on which the statute runs or is applied.

RELEVANT REGULATIONS

It’s a rarity to find a law that has been effected without relevant regulations. When that happens, it can only portend chaos.

Surprisingly, the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (PPADA) 2015 was operationalised on January 7, 2016 with a caveat to create regulations for it within 12 months. That has not happened and there is no communication on it from the National Treasury.

In the President’s various pronouncements, he has warned public servants against corruption and sloth. As citizens, it’s time we called out those sleeping on the job and demand delivery of quality services since we pay for them through taxes.

The confusion and cost to the taxpayer caused by non-promulgation of the regulations may be hard to quantify or even contemplate but are enormous.

Mr Philip Kinisu, the then-Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman, stated that we lose, on average, a third of the annual budget through corruption. That would be around Sh650 billion. Any reasonable person would want to save such huge sums of money for good causes, such as financing the ‘Big Four’ agenda.

PROCUREMENT PROCESS

A properly structured procurement process devoid of guesswork or ‘cooked’ documentation is urgent. And the confusion in counties is even more telling. When a forensic audit is done on procurement in the devolved units in 2013-2017, the National Youth Service scandal will look like child play.

Without valid regulations, procurement officers grope in the dark and make costly mistakes. Additionally, crooked people lurk in the wings, capitalising on the lacuna, albeit fraudulently.

It cannot be that PPADA 2015 repealed Public Procurement and Disposal Act (PPDA) 2005 but retained Public Procurement and Disposal Regulations (PPDR) 2006. What a contradiction! For all practical purposes, PPADA 2015 is still-born.

The Anglo Leasing scandal happened after then-Finance minister Daudi Mwiraria in 2003 suspended all supplies officers in an ill-advised bid to rid the public service of procurement corruption.

This, instead, produced opposite results — a scandal of monumental proportions — due to knowledge gaps by those left in charge.

WITHOUT A BOARD

Besides, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) has operated without a board. The term of the oversight board under the previous Act (2005) lapsed three years ago and has not been reconstituted.

PPADA 2015 Section 10 states, “the management of the authority shall vest in a board to be known as Public Procurement Regulatory Board.” This literally means PPRA without a board is non-existent.

What would be the motivation to keep such a key governance institution without a board for such a long time? In whose interest is this dysfunctional status?

With all manner of rogue contractors in this market identified by county governments and other agencies for their shoddy work, delays and even abandonment of sites, PPRA has less than 10 vendors in its list of debarred firms.

OVERSIGHT BOARD

By law, the oversight board approves the list of blacklisted firms for breaches of the law.

The continued absence of such an important organ in such a critical sector can only favour merchants of impunity. As a matter of fact, the firms blacklisted recently at Kenya Power can sue and win their cases fair and square, citing irregular and illegal debarment.

There should be no discretion in the application of any law; the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Mr Henry Rotich, must facilitate PPRA to perform its statutory functions. The procrastination is hurting proper public procurement functioning.

Mr Wasike is a procurement specialist and governance expert.  [email protected] Twitter:@ChrisMWasike