EDITORIAL: State workers must stay away from contracts

Kenya Power
A Kenya Power technician. FILE PHOTO | TOM OTIENO | NMG  

It is becoming an all too familiar story, of employees in parastatals and all levels of government becoming major contractors every time a large scale project is rolled out. Perhaps the most egregious example is the National Youth Service (NYS) where employees are living well beyond their means, thanks to well-meaning but ill-executed multi-billion shilling projects. NYS, however, is by no means an isolated case.

In a lot of cases, relatives and allies of rogue employees are running on the inside lane, growing fat at the expense of everyone else. Predictably, Kenya Power Company with its ambitious electrification projects has not been spared.

A lot of genuine contractors indeed gave up a long time ago due to frustrations by insiders who have been doing the work themselves.

On Wednesday, we reported the managing director Ken Tarus telling Parliament that dozens of employees had been let go while some 349 companies have been referred to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation for irregular tendering.

The department is looking at the employee involvement with a view to charging them in court. Besides the outright illegality and conflict of interest in employees doing contracts for their employers, there are many reasons why this should be avoided at all cost. One of them is that when you oversee work you have interest in, there are no guarantees that it will be done to required specification. Basically you are stealing from the company while compromising performance.

Two, for a public company the danger of embezzlement always lingers. There is no guarantee that if you are that dishonest the scope of work paid for is what has been done. That is even if it is your co-worker supposed to oversee what your firm is doing.

Three, it means you are not working full-time for your employer as you are supposed to. Indeed, that reminds us of the reason the civil service once banned employees from doing business.

The government, anti-graft agencies and professional bodies must do more to ensure that the epidemic of employee-contractor is done away with. Most of the managers involved belong to professional groups that must sanction them.

Unless there is more focus on this issue, major projects meant to hasten development will be channels for losing taxpayers’ money.