Reprieve for prison suppliers as State set to clear pending bills

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 00:00 |
A demonstration by suppliers of goods and services to the prisons at Uhuru Park in Nairobi in February. Photo/COURTESY

Suppliers of goods and services to the State Department of Correctional Services have been handed a lifeline after the government outlined a massive verification process for all pending bills countrywide.

In what could end a tiff between suppliers and the department over  Sh6.2 billion pending bills, some dating back to June 2009, the government has moved to verify the claims at the source stations where goods and services were supplied.

According to an advertisement placed in a local daily, the claimant must present themselves with all supporting documents before end of June 2020 for the government to process the payments.

“Failure to present yourself will result in non-verification of your claims. The State department intends to pay all claims that are verified by  June 30, 2020,” read the statement in part.

This could bring to an end the long running feud scheduled for verification in various prison stations countrywide between 8am and 5pm countrywide.

Activities will take place throughout the country with Nairobi being the first base for verification on  May 20, while  Coast region will start verification on May 25.

Manyani prison will verify documents on June 3, while the last point of verification will be Kerugoya on June 2.

The long awaited verifications and payments comes at a time Kenyans are in dire need of money to see them through a government imposed lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic but will depend on speed of legislators approving the supplementary budget.

However, they might have to wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to be eradicated before the issue is brought to conclusion.

Budget allocation

The National Treasury recommended an increase in budgetary allocation to the department from Sh6 billion to Sh33.3 billion, with Sh957.5 million earmarked for capital expenditure and Sh26.4 billion going to current expenditure.

A total of Sh6.2 billion will be used to settle pending bills to service providers across the country.

“The increase is on account of shortfall in personnel emoluments, operation and maintenance, and the provision of Sh6.2 billion to cater for payment of pending bills,” the National Treasury said.

Commentators reckon payment of the bills will unlock finances to the over 300 suppliers, providing much needed economic relief to cushion them against the effects of Covid-19.

Since June 2009, the suppliers have not received payment for goods and services delivered until 2018, with banks disposing their land, houses and vehicles used as collaterals.

Former Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njunguna Ndungu, while speaking on K24 TV a fortnight ago asked the National and County governments “to pay suppliers and contractors to keep them afloat and save their jobs.”

The department hosts 129 correctional institutions out of which nine are maximum security prisons where the suppliers provide a variety of foodstuffs and firewood among other things.

Suppliers have accused Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein of high-handedness by ordering a stop to any payments of the pending bills and cancelling award notifications given to suppliers before June 2018.

“Any outstanding claims that were incurred before June 30, 2018 were invalidated by three special audits and therefore the department is not in a position to settle these claims,” she said in a notice sent to the suppliers last December.

More on National