By Gift Briton

Despite an initiative launched by the Kenyan Government nine years ago to facilitate enterprises owned by women, youth and persons with disabilities in accessing public procurement opportunities, a significant number in the target group feel that the program is not benefitting them.

In 2013, Kenya launched the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities(AGPO) initiative mandating all public procurement entities to set aside at least 30% of their procurement opportunities to enterprises owned by the above target groups.

The initiative was launched as a way of making sure that the marginalised population have access to government opportunities despite stiff competition.

However, based on the findings of a research by Strathmore Business School(SBS) aiming to establish among other objectives the effectiveness of AGPO program in enhancing women’s participation and economic empowerment, three in every ten women interviewed that have AGPO registered enterprises swore not to tender again claiming that they did not benefit by tendering.

Furthermore, numerous public procuring entities are still issuing out tenders without awarding 30% of the opportunities to the target groups.

According to the research which was conducted in over 25 counties, women who swore to never apply again for public tenders mentioned lack of payment by the procuring entities after winning the tenders while others said it is because they have applied numerously but have never won any tenders and also that they did not get feedback from the procuring entities as to why they never won.

Unfortunately, there is no clear punishment in the law against the procuring entities for failing to pay or delay to pay the suppliers and for failing to provide feedback to the suppliers who never won.

Ruth Kiraka, SBS project lead

According to professor Ruth Kiraka, the SBS project lead, it because there are no strict penalties for non-compliance that some procuring entities still delay payments or even fail pay suppliers at all.

She added that, some suppliers have never won tenders because the system is unfair. The system is giving opportunities to the same people over and gain yet there are people who have never benefitted and even worse, those who have won tenders are not paid. So, until the regulatory body stamps its authority and say that this is not acceptable, we are still going to see the same problems.”

She also added that “there needs to be a relationship between the payment and the taxation. So that the money for tax only kicks in after the suppliers have been paid.”

“The argument is that if I have been applying for tenders as a woman and I have never won since AGPO was started, is it fair to kick me out of the AGPO system after the end of five years because the AGPO system automatically locks you out after five years whether you have won or not won any tenders” she posed.

Mercy Waithanji, member of Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) Board of Directors

Mercy Waithanji, a member of Kenya Association of Women Business Owners(KAWBO) Board of Directors, is one of the many women entrepreneurs who did not benefitted from tendering instead she had bad experiences as a result of non-compliance by the procuring entities.

Some years back, Waithanji won a tender thereafter took a bank loan to facilitate her business. She performed the contract but could not pay back the bank loan because the procuring entity failed to pay her despite the services she provided.

As a result, the bank came to auction her home for failing to pay back the loan. She had no money pay back because and with no other option left at her disposal, she ended up selling another property to safeguard her home. ““I was lucky to have another property that I ended up selling to clear my loan. The tender left me poorer instead of economically empowering me. Therefore, my advice is that there should be consequences to the procuring entities that divert the supplier’s money,” she said.