Open contracting solution to pending bills problem
By Polycarp Otieno
Despite both the National and County governments’ efforts to pay suppliers and contractors, pending bills remains a huge challenge.
Delaying payments has negatively impacted the economy, led to the closure of many Small and Medium-size Enterprises and job losses for an already struggling population.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the outstanding balance of eligible government pending bills as of December 2019 was Sh22.7 billion, while Sh37.7 billion of the pending bills lacked sufficient documentation to support services rendered or work done and, therefore, were not recommended for payment.
Kenyans are ushering in a new decade with expectations of a growing economy, more money in their pockets and political stability.
The continued fight against corruption will form part of the expectations with political pundits predicting that President Uhuru Kenyatta will fight the vice even more ruthlessly to secure his legacy.
Part of the fight against corruption will be to focus more on procurement processes.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Estimates, 20-25 per cent of procurement budget money is lost to corruption, making public procurement one of the most vulnerable areas to graft, fraud, and bribery.
This translates into unfinished projects, poor service delivery and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
In 2011, the government of Kenya committed to ‘open up government’ for public scrutiny and in-depth citizen public participation under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) framework.
As part of the government’s commitment to open contracting and strengthening public procurement, President Uhuru directed that all public procurement entities, publish all contracting information on the Public Procurement Information Portal.
The order requires all government entities to publish full details of tenders and awards from July 2018.
This would allow members of the public to access the information of the goods or services purchased, contract values, and suppliers particulars including owners, directors and beneficial ownership.
A year later, however, this order is yet to be fully implemented, thus limiting public engagement on procurement and inhibiting the fight against graft.
Despite the slow implementation, some counties are in the process of implementing the order. So far, they have proved to be successful in terms of increased citizen engagement and better service delivery.
Among the counties implementing open contracting are Makueni, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nyeri.
The national and county governments must start implementing open contracting principles of proactive disclosure of procurement information and ensure citizen participation, monitoring, and oversight throughout the entire chain of procurement, including 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 will ultimately help cure such issues of eligible and ineligible pending bills that are plaguing the country.
Adopting open contracting will eventually strengthen Kenya’s public procurement processes and ensure that public interests are secured through provision of quality goods and services and improve management of public resources.