TRANSPARENCY

Adopt open contracting to cure pending bills menace

This will enable effective oversight of government services by revealing who is getting paid how much to deliver what, how they were selected and whether they delivered on time

In Summary

• In a press statement by acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani, the outstanding balance of eligible government pending bills as of December last year was Sh22.71 billion

• The delayed payments have negatively impacted the economy, led to the closure of many small and medium-sized enterprises, and job losses. 

 

Open contracting in tendering
Open contracting in tendering
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

Despite the national and county governments' efforts to pay suppliers and contractors, the issue of pending bills remains a huge challenge.

The delayed payments have negatively impacted the economy, led to the closure of many small and medium-sized enterprises, and job losses for an already struggling population.

In a press statement by acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani, the outstanding balance of eligible government pending bills as of December last year was Sh22.71 billion, while Sh37.7 billion of the pending bills lacked sufficient documentation to support services rendered or work done. They were thus not recommended for payment.

In the new decade, Kenyans are vibrant and expectant of positive changes to come; a growing economy, more money in their pockets and, of course, political stability. The continued fight against corruption will form part of the expectations, with many political pundits predicting an even more ruthless President ready to fight the menace that will ultimately shape his legacy.

Part of the fight against corruption will focus more on procurement given the increasing desire by the government to push counties to offset pending bills, before receiving allocations, as well as streamline their procurement to improve service delivery.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates, 20-25 per cent of procurement budget is lost through corruption, making public purchases one of the most vulnerable areas to corruption, fraud and bribery. This translates to unfinished projects, poor service delivery and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

In 2011, the government committed to ‘open up government’ for public scrutiny and in-depth citizen public participation under the Open Government Partnership framework.

Kenya is now implementing its third National Action Plan (NAP III) 2018-20 under the OGP framework, where the government affirms to implement the Open Contracting Data Standards as a way to enhance openness, improve transparency and accessibility of public procurement information and data.

President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to open contracting and strengthening public procurement and directed under the Executive Order no 2 of 2018 that all public procuring entities publish all public contracting information on the Public Procurement Information Portal. 

The Executive Order requires all government entities and public institutions to publish full details of tenders and awards from July 2018. This allows the public to access the information about goods or /and services purchased, contract values, and suppliers particulars including owners, directors and beneficial ownership. A year later, however, this order has not yet been fully implemented and as such, limiting public engagement on procurement matters and inhibiting the war on corruption.

Despite the slow implementation of the Executive Order No 2, several counties are engaged in implementing open contracting. So far, they have proved to be successful in terms of the increased citizen engagement in public procurement and improved service delivery. Among the leading counties in open contracting implementation include Makueni, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nyeri.

It is important that the national and county governments institutionalise and start implementing open contracting principles of proactive disclosure of procurement information and ensure citizen participation, monitoring, and oversight throughout the entire chain of procurement. This includes planning, tendering, awarding, and implementation.

This will enable effective oversight of government services by revealing who is getting paid how much to deliver what, how they were selected and whether they delivered on time and with quality.

This can expose anomalies that alert the public and government officials to procurement processes that are inefficient or uncompetitive, delivered the poor results and don’t reflect value for money as enshrined in Article 227 of the Constitution, Public Procurement Asset and Disposal Act 2015, as well as other procurement regulations. This will ultimately help cure eligible and ineligible pending bills issues that are plaguing the country.

National and county governments should adopt open contracting standards to strengthen public procurement processes and ensure that public interest is met through the provision of quality goods and services, enhance the highest level of public scrutiny and improve the management of public resources, otherwise attaining the Big Four agenda and Vision 2030 will be an uphill task.

The writer is a deputy programme officer at Transparency International, Kenya