PROCURING GOODS AND SERVICES TRANSPARENTLY FOR KENYANS: THE MAKUENI COUNTY APPROACH
Kivutha Kibwana, Governor Makueni County.
Nairobi, 4th September 2020.
Public Procurement Reforms
The Government of the Republic of Kenya has committed to reform and improve on the public procurement system through enactment of various procurement laws and regulations. These laws are meant to actualize the following essential values: accountability, responsiveness to citizens of the country, transparency, value for money and fair competition among others.
Article 227 of the Constitution provides new standards for public procurement in Kenya. It requires public procurement to be set up in a manner that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive, and cost effective. It also requires the Kenyan parliament to enact procurement regulations that will provide for preferential allotment of contracts and protection for disadvantaged groups.
Further, section 2 of the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act 2005 as amended in 2015 provides for the minimum threshold for procurement and asset disposal in public service. These are;
- To maximise economy and efficiency;
- Promote competition and ensure that competitors are treated fairly;
- To promote the integrity and fairness of those procedures;
- To increase transparency and accountability in those procedures;
- To increase public confidence in those procedures; and
- To facilitate the promotion of local industry and economic development.
Despite the establishment and enforcement of public procurement reforms, there is still loss of public funds and costly inefficiencies that pose a great danger to sustainable economic development. There is corruption and vast malpractices which lead to poor public service delivery and diminishing development outcomes. Public procurement is now perceived as an area of self-enrichment by public officials and rogue contractors.
In the recent past, we have witnessed malpractices such as illegal ‘urgent purchases’, biased evaluations, unethical single sourced procurement, non-standardized bidding documents and specifications and selection of suppliers on the basis of bribery. All these happen when procurement is hidden from the public eye. Most departments and agencies at both levels of government have taken a back seat in the implementation of the provisions of public procurement reforms.
While Article 227 of the Constitution envisages a public procurement conducted in a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective, the transparency principle, which has not been well enshrined in the public procurement practice and therefore the public, is locked out through all the stages especially after closed advertisement and one only hears of the procurement again at commissioning or when it erupts as a corrupt dealing. This is where open contracting comes in.
Open Contracting: The Makueni Approach
The Government of Makueni County has embraced open contracting. Open contracting is an approach to ensuring that all government procurement, and all government contracting of any service, is open, efficient and delivers as required for all citizens.
Opaque procurement processes hinder service delivery and damage trust in the public service while opening procurement data through open contracting helps support public participation and foster accountable governance. Our experience in Makueni County has shown how open contracting in government builds trust with citizens as technology and innovation is adopted for public delivery of goods and services while providing access to information freely and proactively to citizens and interested parties.
In December 2019, during the International Anti-Corruption Day celebrations, the Government of Makueni County launched its open contracting portal <https://opencontracting.makueni.go.ke>. It is the first of its kind in Kenya. We have made open 389 contracts, which are worth 1,660,584,320.65 Kenya Shillings. All these are available to the public for scrutiny on our portal.
In Africa, the South African National Treasury and Imali Yethu, a civil society coalition for open budgets, has established the Vulekamali portal with the goal of making government budget data and processes accessible to all citizens and interested parties. The Government of Malawi has also implemented open contracting for public infrastructure projects leading to an increase in the value for money.
We are opening up government to ensure that we take every measure to mitigate corruption, ensure that we are using public funds to the best value for money, to support more competition for businesses especially Small and Micro-Enterprises (SMEs), and also support youth, women and persons with disability-owned businesses to have better chances of doing business with government.
We are also in the process of getting all of Makueni County COVID-19 related procurement marked with a unique identifier to enable us to track all procurement for accountability and effectiveness. Makueni’s example in adopting technology for open contracting is one that we call on the national and county governments to adopt at this critical time. We must as a nation, insist on an open and inclusive response to this pandemic. It is the only way we will gain trust of our citizens, achieve our pandemic management goals and ensure that we are working with all critical partners to support efforts to effectively manage the current crisis.
It is also important that we think of all the businesses and entrepreneurs at this time when the economy is in dire need of recovery mechanisms. Open contracting contributes to ensuring that all businesses have the opportunity to supply goods and services and not only a select few. We need not only encourage our young people to open businesses but also take every measure to stimulate the business environment with opportunities for them.
Let us not go from exposé to exposé of scandals and corruption, without making serious and meaningful interventions to safeguard Kenyans, and provide accountability to our people. We are glad that as a sub national government, we are offering our experience and practical move to action. We invite the national and county governments to embrace our approach in open contracting. We are ready to offer our support for this to become a reality outside of Makueni for all Kenyans. The pandemic cannot and should not be an excuse to override our constitutional values and responsibilities to Kenyans. COVID-19 response and recovery processes must embrace transparency, citizen engagement, oversight and democratic accountability at every stage.
‘…it is because procurement so palpably implicates socio-economic rights that the public has an interest in it being conducted in a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective manner’.
Justice Johan Froneman in a 2013 Constitutional Court Judgement against the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) (Allpay Consolidated Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Others v Chief Executive Officer of the South African Social Security Agency and Others (CCT 48/13) .).
For more information, contact:
J W Wambua,
CECM, Finance and Socio Economic Planning
Government of Makueni County.
Tel: +254 722327844