TRAGEDY OF PENDING BILLS

Kenyans aren’t happy and reason is simple, it’s the economy, stupid!

When the government doesn’t pay, this affects even the private sector and small businesses since the biggest market for goods and services in our economy is the government.

In Summary

• While projects, on one hand, are meant to respond to the needs of the people, most of the prioritized ones are those with huge personal returns on the officials who conceptualise them.

•  Incrementally, the state is losing billions of shillings to unscrupulous companies formed by civil servants for insider trading practices.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura.
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura.
Image: FILE

Recently, there have been a lot of complaints about a cash trapped economy and hollow pockets.

In fact, none other than the President himself wondered ‘why are people broke?’. On one hand, most government spending agencies are not paying on time and a lot of businesses have collapsed as a result. Kenyans have taken loans to finance these business opportunities but they have ended up bankrolling the government without being paid for work done.

The majority of investors, especially the small ones, have lost faith in working with or doing business with the government. There exists a very confused and corrupt manner of government budgeting where people budget to steal.

 

While projects, on one hand, are meant to respond to the needs of the people, most of the prioritized ones are those with huge personal returns on the officials who conceptualise them.

Paperwork can show a road has been constructed or repaired from point A to B by one agency, while the other is done from point B to point A at the same period hence double allocation.

Due to vested interests, priority is given to payments that are not only well documented, but also those the project initiators hold a stake in.

A good number of genuine suppliers, especially start-ups don’t put proper documentation, while crooked ones are very good at their game, supplying air to the government as was the case in the NYS and the dams scandals.

Incrementally, the state is losing billions of shillings to unscrupulous companies formed by civil servants for insider trading practices.

It becomes difficult that genuine businesses would competitively get business opportunities in government. This is why the BBI report has recommended that the decision by the Ndegwa commission for civil servants to be allowed to do business with the government be rescinded.

Projects need to be well anchored into the development plans of each and every procuring entity. This is because some prioritized projects are whimsical in nature, as they are commissioned through roadside or baraza declarations without being carefully thought out in spite of the felt need on the ground.

Counties should follow the County Integrated Development Plans and Annual Development Plans to avoid pending bills arising from such endeavours.

For example, contracts for 11 roads totaling to Sh3.2 billion were issued recently in Kiambu county, yet there was no budget provision for them in the Sh9.3 billion annual allocation.

The county has to retire the contracts by paying off 10 per cent of the cost of the projects, amounting to Sh320 million. Such funds would have been well utilised to pay off other genuine suppliers to provide essential services. Nonpayment has led to people being auctioned, businesses collapsing and others committing suicide.

Pending bills are tantamount to the re-making of the budget through the backdoor. In 2017, there was a procurement spree by then governors who needed campaign money and projects to shore up their re-election bids.

 

The new ones are refusing to pay the resultant pending bills since if they were to do so, they would be left with no funds to effectively implement their manifestos/promises to the electorate.

This scenario has obtained for a long time at the national level. Due to the inflated government project costs and wanton borrowing, the person who will become President in 2022 shall have to do lots of cleaning up the economy by clearing huge debts before implementing his vision for the country.

So yes, people are broke and unhappy. When the government doesn’t pay, this affects even the private sector and small businesses since the biggest market for goods and services in our economy is the government.

Currently, a good number of shops in town have closed down and many malls are full of empty spaces. On the other hand, KRA is closing in on tax defaulters by driving them out of town, hence killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Yet when such funds are collected and then embezzled through not very well thought out projects, its nothing more than stealing from the poor to further enrich the rich through a convoluted web of a dysfunctional state bureaucracy.

One that fails to adhere to the basic principle of no taxation without representation with regards to service delivery and accountability.

There is, therefore, a need to relook at the whole gamut of budgeting, from project conceptualisation, costing, procurement, execution, delivery and payment as the current one is not working.

This was the aim of AGPO in order to spread the pie to youth, women and persons with disabilities, but it has become not only another cash cow for tenderprenueurs, but a graveyard for fledgling businesses of individuals eager to make a genuine living.

People aren’t happy and the reason is simple, it’s the economy … Stupid!!!

The writer is a nominated senator.