A move to streamline the legal framework under, which public procurement and procedures are undertaken is a breath of fresh air in the way public sector business is done.
Cases are rife of public officials colluding with cronies and business associates to obtain Government tenders, supplying overpriced and poor quality items and getting paid using taxpayers money.
There is a network of cowboy contractors who do shoddy work, inflate bills and make huge claims for public projects that are either poorly executed or not done at all.
A banquet of reforms is on the way to make public procurement open and transparent and therefore not open to abuse by bureaucrats and their shoddy network of underground dealers and friends.
For instance, the appeals mechanism will be restructured to make it more difficult for frivolous complainants to sabotage the system with frivolous claims.
A dedicated High Court is to be established to handle procurement contract appeals while appellants seeking stay of execution of contracts in the High Court will be required to pay a fee.
This is to discourage interested parties from delaying public procurement unnecessarily. The latest project falling prey to a disjointed and corrupt public procurement system is procurement at the huge Olkaria Geothermal plant. This project has been subjected to delays as companies haggle for a tender to supply electric rigs for drilling of wells in this 280 MW power station.
The list of public projects where companies and public officers are fighting for control is getting longer by the day. There is therefore need to refine procurement procedures to speed up implementation of public projects especially those contained in the Vision 2030 blueprint.
It is also important to ensure that reforms in public procurement also incorporate use of technology or e-procurement. There are significant efficiencies to be generated by applying better procurement and modern e-procurement technologies. While other sectors of the economy are moving into the digital platform, public procurement remains rigid and made up of all paper-based systems and run by procurement officers that are not technology savvy.
It is only through a fast and efficient electronic public procurement system that the Government can improve its implementation of complex donor-funded projects and flagship Vision 2030 plans.
Figures show a large bulk of funds meant for development projects finding their way back to Treasury. This is due to low absorption capacity of projects, especially those funded by donors.
Spine and teeth
With Kenya already switching over to a devolved system of administration, current challenges in public procurement experienced at the national level will cascade to the county governments unless urgent measures are taken to incorporate the new topography.
While the country’s development agenda is well spelt out in the blueprints and annual budgets, it is due to poor implementation that resources lie idle. It is worth noting that the procurement authority will now have a spine and teeth to bite.
Some of the new powers, to be welded by principal secretaries, include stopping suspension of procurement proceedings and preventing an abandonment of the on-going process, a scene that is currently playing out.
There are a huge number of rogue contractors and suppliers out to sabotage the process of public procurement. This group needs to be blacklisted and locked out.
Kenya Institute of Supplies Management is be reinforced to instil professionalism in public procurement through capacity building and enforcement of a code of conduct for procurement professionals.
This is to ensure all suppliers are brought up to speed on the ongoing in public procurement, how to place their bids and do business with the Government. Kenya’s public procurement system has been changing. In past decades, it was merely a system with no regulations.
It has since transformed from a system directed by circulars from treasury to new rules under the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. There is still room for improvement such as weeding out mischievous bidders out to slow down the public procurement scheme.