A group of professional lobbyists representing various civil society and non-governmental organizations and the private sector in Kenya teamed up on Thursday, 8 October, to condemn the corruption menace involved in the public procurement at Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA).

The lobby group made up of thirteen different organizations are now pushing the Anti -Corruption agency to begin process of recovering assets from public officials and companies that benefited from corrupt deals at KEMSA.

Sheila Masinde, Executive Director, Transparency International (TI) said President Uhuru Kenyatta issued directives which must be adhered to not only to KEMSA but by all public institutions. Those that are rebellious to such presidential directives ought to be summoned to explain reasons for not abiding.

Ms Masinde argued that publication of tender awards by KEMSA followed a presidential directive in August 2020 otherwise it could be secret to date. Concerted efforts by non-state actors demanding for the same action since April 2020, has always been vehemently ignored.

The Executive Director, TI is surprised that a similar presidential directive through Executive Order Number 2 of 2018 is being ignored by majority of the public procurement entities. To date the contravention is close to two years now.

“Many organisations and citizens have made various requests in regard to information on how Covid-19 money has been spent. But unfortunately, that information has been hard to come by and our requests have been largely ignored for a long time,” Ms Masinde disclosed.

“It is high time the president take action for such public procurement entities now. As lobby group, we shall not sit back and relax but would continue to push through other avenues and ensure transparency and accountability is upheld for public benefit,” Ms Masinde asserted.

She suggested that for ease of timely access to such information, KEMSA should also upload the data on the Public Procurement Information portal (PPIP).

Ms Masinde emphasized: “We demand equal respect for citizens’ voices and the law by all public entities in adherence to legal requirements on access to information, transparency and accountability demands by citizen. “We demand for a transparent and fair opportunity for businesses to compete for Government tenders moving forward and particularly for procurement related to Covid-19.”

The professional lobby group urges the Office of the President and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority to follow through on the implementation of Executive Order Number 2 of 2018 by all public procuring entities and put in place enforcement mechanisms for those that are not compliant.

However, the lobbyists noted some progress in the disclosure to public procurement information with the publication of tender awards issued by the KEMSA from September 2019 to September 2020.

Despite the Office of the Auditor General releasing a Special Audit Report on Utilization of Covid-19 funds by KEMSA, the activists want the government to enhance transparency and accountability measures.

According to the lobby group observations, they made various recommendations that could help fast-track that needed transparency and accountability in the health systems

Kevin Osido, Executive Director, County Governance Watch (CGW) hinted the Ministry of Health is yet to make public detailed allocation, disbursement and expenditure information on use of all the Covid-19 Funds by all Government entities for further scrutiny by the public.

Osido however, suggested the Ministry should also ensure all procurement information on Covid-19 resources, in addition to that done by KEMSA is publicized on the Ministry’s website. He said the same should also be made public by all other government entities where Covid-19 resources were used including at County level.

The National and County Governments are yet to fully deliver on the Resolutions of the Covid-19 Virtual Conference held in August 2020 requiring that, Both levels of government embrace open government and publicise tenders and awarded contracts on County and National Government websites.

“The Office of the President, the Council of Governors and the Public Procurement Authority should follow through on this commitment made by both levels of Government and ensure compliance within the shortest time possible as this is long overdue,” Osido cautioned.

On the other hand, Wambua Kawive of Inuka Kenya Ni SiSi was disappointed that KEMSA violated the laws of public procurement and processes that led to country losing money. He said such violation should not be taken lightly hence severe punishment must ensue.

Paul Annan of UN Global Compact Network Kenya disclosed that the Auditor General’s Special Report have various recommendations could be adopted. He noted that KEMSA violation of laws on public procurement and public finance management actually led to loss of Ksh 2.3 billion and mismanagement of Universal Health Coverage funds.

In addition to the Auditor General’s Report, Annan pointed out there has been other public enquiries and fact-finding missions by different parliamentary committees.  For instance, Parliament should make public all findings from the parliamentary committee enquiries and investigations.

“The findings by the Auditor General, the Controller of Budget, Parliamentary Committees and investigative agencies should inform a reform process in the management of public resources more so in the Ministry of Health and constituent agencies,” Annan affirmed.

The reforms could also be replicated in other Ministries to enhance transparency and accountability mechanisms in budgeting, allocation, disbursement, utilization and audit processes on public funds.

Stephen Osedo,  Project Officer, NTA also calls for enhanced involvement of citizens in decision making and oversight in the substantial investment in the counties health budget by both Government and development partners and the health sector that is largely devolved function.

Osedo stated the need for Government and all development partners contributing resources to the Health Sector to establish minimum safeguards to ensure public participating in decision making at all levels including at the National level for improved service delivery and accountability.

These would include; public disclosure requirements on budgets allocations, disbursement, procurement, implementation and audit reports as well as involving health sector stakeholders in decision making processes including the health workers, patient groups, religious organizations, civil society organizations and other representatives as the case maybe.