Third Eye

Lid on public coffers must be tightened

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 00:00 |

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If there is one thing that the State must perfect on the back of dwindling economic fortunes and soaring public debt, it is to tighten the lid on public coffers, and stop blatant abuse of tax payer money.

It is unfortunate that a cabal of public officials have made public tenders low lying fruits to siphon money meant for economic growth.

Whereas the State must move with speed and arrest those fingered in the Sh7.8 billion Covid-19-related procurement scam at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, it must also learn from this classic example of case of split tenders to seal loopholes in future procurement.

For a long time, cartels have leveraged this manoeuvre to avoid the Attorney General’s (AG) scrutiny, leading to loss and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

Therefore, the State must not only signal it wants to lower the threshold value of public tenders to curb abuse of procurement systems by rogue accounting officials, but make it happen.

A revision of the Public Procurement law to ensure the AG signs off all public tenders valued at a minimum Sh500 million down from Sh5 billion, as it currently stands, will be a big win in deepening oversight in both regional and national government offices.

The move will net more entities into the AG’s oversight bracket, but more importantly, it will spotlight notorious cartels in some ministries and government agencies that split tenders to escape scrutiny of contracts.

However, this fight will not be complete without re-examining the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS), which seems to be aiding some of the cartels.

While IFMIS deepened transparency, accountability and responsiveness of public financial resources, it is unfortunate that some institutions advertise on the national E-tendering platform, only to sneak in proxies by sending tenders manually to beat the system.

It would be important to tackle technology challenges in counties which have become key conduits for stolen cash.

The good news, is that agitation for a review of Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act to enhance transparency among accounting officers falls under this category.

For starters, this can be achieved if the State deepens its E-procurement system nationwide to ensure all financial audit trails are electronic, on a platform that is difficult to tamper with.

With such firewalls, a comprehensive nationwide audit will be possible, making it even more difficult to siphon taxpayer money from public coffers.

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