Since the 1990s, a lot of effort has gone into cleaning the public procurement system, notably with the Bretton Woods institutions and the opposition pushing the agenda. This was out of a realisation that the supplies system is Kenya’s Achilles heel in its effort to reduce poverty.
Along the way, laws such as the Public Procurement and Disposal Act — which has gone through a raft changes — as well as procurements rules and institutions have been created.
If you care to look around, Kenya has one of the most advanced systems having started early. However, this has not fully thwarted theft of public resources even with occasional suspension and jailing of procurement officers.
Systematic theft has taken place in the procurement process, with the National Youth Service and the mega dams larceny being the latest examples. And as expected, the counties that came into being only in 2013 have joined the gravy train.
On Wednesday, we extensively quoted Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) chairman Andrew Musangi laying down the wanton flouting of the laws by the devolved authorities. A survey by the regulator shows all the 47 units violated the law including by not making public contracts and failing to keep records.
Indeed, there was only partial compliance if any, indicating there was huge leakage of public coffers.
Sadly, the same applied to State parastatals, not to mention the Central Government.
Our take is that compliance with rules should not be seen as an option but a way of getting away from severe punishment.
Unless the watchdogs make it clear through action that this will not be tolerated, we will continue in a situation where we pompously read huge budgets supported by both local and external borrowing only to benefit a few as the majority remain in penury.
It is time procurement as a means of bleeding the country is stanched.
All the watchdogs must take both preventive and punitive measures to resolve this grave issue. Otherwise we will take centuries to achieve credible development especially through the counties.