In 2019, then Deputy President William Ruto directed all public entities to publish information on beneficiaries of complex public procurement contracts.
This was part of a push to bring to light the contract details of mega projects like the standard gauge railway (SGR) and the Nairobi Express Way for public scrutiny and accountability.
Due to the huge sums of money involved, public procurement remains one of the most vulnerable enterprises to corruption across the globe.
Public procurement reforms in Kenya have come a long way — from a crude system with no regulations to the present legally regulated procurement system.
The Treasury in conjunction with the World Bank in 2021 began a series of reforms into the procurement legal framework with a view of aligning it to the volatile business environment.
This included the process of assessing the performance of the public procurement systems to gauge their responsiveness and performance in an economy, full automation of all public procurement processes, purchasing an end-to-end electronic procurement system, and decentralisation of procurement of information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and related services to various ministries, departments and agencies.
There was also a proposal to temporarily stop capitation on County Governments that persistently fail to comply with the directive to clear pending bills among other reforms.
Despite all these efforts, the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) says procurement in most public institutions is still prone to bribery, inflation of prices and vested interest by various parties who with impunity blatantly disregard the set procurement laws and regulations.
While effective public procurement is necessary for economic growth, poor management of public procurement systems can turn public investments into vehicles for financial haemorrhage.
Now that he is at the helm of the country’s leadership, it is incumbent upon President Ruto to ensure that he brings sanity into public procurement in Kenya.
With several countries initiating austerity measures to curb the biting recession, the President must keep his eyes glued on public procurement in order to cushion the country from economic meltdown.