Procurement is increasingly becoming a part of success strategies of many business organisations. Effective procurement management is used to boost efficiency and competitiveness.
Public procurement, for instance, plays a strategic role to governments in terms of cost-saving, quality management, contract management while it is also a competitive tool.
Making up between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP, public procurement stimulates trade and fosters foreign direct investment.
Sadly, every time corruption issues are raised in Kenya, the procurement desk always features. Perhaps it is time to interrogate the role of each participant in the procurement process as stipulated in the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act, 2015 and the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Regulations, 2020 not to exonerate those culpable but to unravel the truth.
In 2019, about 78 junior staff from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) were interdicted for allegedly facilitating irregular fraudulent clearance of cargo, amendment of tax returns to help taxpayers evade taxes and irregular issuance of compliance certificates.
Early this month, about 800 Kenya Medical Supplies Authority junior staff were sent home in the name of restructuring the workforce after a major procurement scandal rocked the agency.
Kenya Power also suspended 59 procurement staff amid tender fights involving top executives of the company. The list goes on.
The procurement process is usually handled by different officers, some of who are not procurement professionals. They include procurement initiation, processing and receipt of goods, works or services.
Corruption in procurement occurs at these stages. From need identification, selection of bidders, invoice approval and payment to storage and store recording, which must get the approval of the accounting officer.
The Accounting Officer among other roles must ensure that procurement and asset disposal contracts are entered into lawfully and implemented accordingly, informing the authorities.
Procurement managers and directors with the delegated authority of Accounting Officers are responsible for the coordination of purchases, contract negotiation and vendor management to ensure the strategy is implemented across the board.
Unfortunately, in some institutions, the procurement function is still performed by non-procurement professionals.
For instance, in most public schools and middle-level colleges, procurement is done by accountants or bursars.
In some organisations, purchasing function is under the finance directors; worse, procurement professionals would still take instruction from the HR manager against the law.
According to UNDP, investing in an effective public procurement system that is based on transparency and competition can save the government huge sums of money and increase profitability.
Political and top management interference in procurement is often cited by various studies as the number one cause of non-compliance. There is a need for procurement officers to take full charge of functions.