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Kenya: Procurement law set for review


 

Sunday Nation

By  TOM MOSOBA tmosoba@tz.nationmedia.com

August 18th, 2012

IN SUMMARY

  • The review is in response to a spate of court cases and controversies that continue to plague tendering for major public projects, including those in critical areas such as the forthcoming General Election, national security and infrastructure development, he said.
  • Local suppliers also want to use the window to seek legal protection against stiff competition from established foreign firms while a stringent appeals formula is being proposed as the best way to escape prolonged litigation among querulous bidding parties.
  • But the law society says corruption and lack of capacity in public entities, rather than the flaws in the law itself, were to blame for the procurement gridlock.

The procurement law is finally to be reviewed to remove bottlenecks in tendering for public projects and make it easier for private entities to transact business.

The ministry of Finance is spearheading the process to amend the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 and attendant regulations, ostensibly to align it with the new Constitution, but there is the view that it is largely to fix growing tendering nightmares.

However, the Law Society of Kenya has cautioned against mutilating the law and has asked the government identify ways to address tendering loopholes and confront corruption which it says is the main issue.

Public Procurement Oversight Authority director-general Maurice Juma told the Sunday Nation in an interview that the agency and other parties have started on the review.

Mr Juma said the amendments would help plug a number of shortcomings and incorporate lessons learnt over the five years that the Procurement Act has been in force.

“A number of stakeholders’ views and input have been gathered and will inform the amendments envisaged in the new Act,” he said.

“At this point in time, views and comments gathered from stakeholders are raw proposals for amendments. The next step will be validation of these views through public consultative meetings with various stakeholders.

“It is only then that we will have specific and concrete proposed amendments that we can share with you and other interested parties,” he said when pressed for specifics.

The review is in response to a spate of court cases and controversies that continue to plague tendering for major public projects, including those in critical areas such as the forthcoming General Election, national security and infrastructure development, he said.

The push to amend the procurement law recently attracted the attention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga who said new legislation must be put in place urgently to cater for Kenya’s development needs.

The current one, he noted, was forced on Kenya by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The Sunday Nation learned that among the changes being sought by the private sector include the separation of the tender process for huge projects from the routine undertakings by ministries and public agencies.

Local suppliers also want to use the window to seek legal protection against stiff competition from established foreign firms while a stringent appeals formula is being proposed as the best way to escape prolonged litigation among querulous bidding parties.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 chief executive officer Mugo Kibati said the amendments were inescapable if the country is to move forward. “We cannot move this way, and I have made my point to the Treasury and the Public Procurement Oversight Authority,” he said.

Mr Kibati said tendering for infrastructural projects with a huge economic impact on the country should not be subject to the same kind of bureaucracy common in ministries and the same adjudicating committees involved in buying furniture and cars.

“The current law also encourages unnecessary and costly court suits and is short on the sophistication that is needed for some of the projects lined up to attain growth levels of a newly industrialised economy,” Mr Kibati said.

A new law that offers remedy to aggrieved parties but does not hold the nation at ransom or punish hard-working public servants at the behest of a few profiteers is what is desired, he said.

Kenya Publishers Association chairman Lawrence Njagi said the new law should clearly define the role of the public private partnership in procurement.

“For instance, to get value for money, we as publishers would like to be involved in the auditing of post- bidding services to ensure what was sold is actually delivered to the final consumers,” he said.

Mr Njagi said the 10 per cent country preference rule should also be operationalised to safeguard local manufacturers against undue foreign completion.

Public sensitisation

“The private sector would also like to be involved in public sensitisation because as it is now the task cannot be carried out sufficiently by the oversight authority,” he said.

But the law society says corruption and lack of capacity in public entities, rather than the flaws in the law itself, were to blame for the procurement gridlock. (READ: Public procurement a haven of graft, TI)

“There could be some justification for those advocating the amendments, but I must say that corruption remains the biggest threat, and therefore as a country we should be careful not to mutilate the stringent regulations to check the vice,” cautioned Mr Eric Mutua, the law society chairman.

“We should look at the bigger picture and demand that only minimal amendments be allowed,” he said. The chairman said many times government officials have overlooked legal counsel to engage in wheeler-dealing.

Earlier, Mr Juma reinforced the corruption claim and said it is a monster that all must be ready to face. He also said the penchant for shortcuts did not help matters.

“We have had instances where procuring entities are brought before the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board and advised to address various anomalies before they re-tender. When they re-tender, these entities ignore the advice of the Board and commit the same mistakes… In such cases, the law cannot be blamed for deliberate human failures,” he said.

On the positive, he said the high number of procurement cases and complaints filed with Public Procurement Oversight Authority and the procurement review board is proof that more people were now conversant with the procurement law and are aware of their rights.

 

Burundi: A Deepening Corruption Crisis


Africa Report  N°18521 Mar 2012

Translation from French.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Despite the establishment of anti-corruption agencies, Burundi is facing a deepening corruption crisis that threatens to jeopardise a peace that is based on development and economic growth bolstered by the state and driven by foreign investment. The “neopatrimonialist” practices of the party in office since 2005 has relegated Burundi to the lowest governance rankings, reduced its appeal to foreign investors, damaged relations with donors; and contributed to social discontent. More worrying still, neopatrimonialism is undermining the credibility of post-conflict institutions, relations between former Tutsi and new Hutu elites and cohesion within the ruling party, whose leaders are regularly involved in corruption scandals. In order to improve public governance, the Burundian authorities should “walk the talk” and take bold steps to curtail corruption. Civil society should actively pursue its watchdog role and organise mass mobilisation against corruption and donors should prioritise good governance.

Since Burundi became a republic in 1966, state capture, mostly by the Tutsi elite, was at the centre of politics, and the unfair wealth distribution fuelled conflict. While the 1993-2003 civil war has not threatened the Tutsi political and economic domination, it has increased corruption and favoured the rise of an ethnically diverse oligarchy.

When the CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie) rebellion came to power in 2005, it intended not only to transfer political power from the Tutsi to the Hutu but also to improve governance. The new authorities pledged to fight corruption and created state structures to this effect. However, the first corruption scandals involving the CNDD-FDD dignitaries and state officials watered down the hope of a more equitable wealth distribution.

In addition to the politicisation of the civil service, the ruling party captured the public sector and its resources. It is coveting the private sector by trying to extend its control over the banking sector. It is also interfering in privatisation processes, thwarting efforts to improve the business climate. In such a small economy, where the state maintains a prominent role, the monopolisation of public and private resources risks derailing the peacebuilding process.

The president took the lead in the fight against corruption to improve Burundi’s declining image and address the impact of this pervasive corruption on foreign aid – which amounts to half of the state budget. He launched a “zero tolerance” campaign and designed a national strategy for good governance. However, as the core problem has not been correctly identified, this approach is doomed to fail. The solution is not to “get the talk right”, to “get the institutions right” and to “get the legal framework right”; it is to change the power relations that undermine good governance.

The national strategy for good governance includes all the necessary technical ingredients to fight corruption: improved legal framework, citizens’ access to information, independent monitoring and regulatory organisations, depoliticised civil service managers, transparent tendering processes and public servants recruitments, and reform of the natural resources sector.

What is missing is a clear political agenda. Civil society organisations should create a mass movement against corruption through the establishment of an anti-corruption forum gathering the private sector, rural organisations and universities. They should also conduct independent citizens’ surveys and assessments and scrutinise the government’s anti-corruption performance. Donors should prioritise the fight against corruption and reconsider their engagement if governance does not improve. Now that the anti-corruption agenda has become a public policy through the national strategy for good governance, it is up to civil society and donors to create the conditions for its implementation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To create independent institutional checks and balances

To the Government and the Parliament:

1.  Establish the High Court of Justice as required by articles 233, 234, 235 and 236 of the constitution and strengthen the statutory safeguards for the independence of the judiciary, such as the revision of the composition and powers of the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the principle of tenure of judges.

2.  Review the anti-corruption law to extend the powers of the anti-corruption agencies, strengthen the control of illicit enrichment and protect informants.

To the Government:

3.  Remove the supervision authority of the executive branch over the General State Inspectorate and the regulatory agencies so that they become independent administrative authorities.

To improve governance and transparency in the public sector

To the Government:

4.  Activate the recruitment committee of the civil service ministry, integrate civil society in its composition and publicise widely the recruitment and appeal procedures.

5.  Ensure the declarations of assets and conflicts of interest are mandatory and public for all politicians and senior members of the Burundi Revenue Agency, procurement units, and privatisation and anti-cor­rup­tion institutions.

6.  Include civil society representatives in the procurement units within the ministries; limit by decree the categories of public contracts with a secret nature incompatible with any publicity or competition; and change the composition of the committee in charge of the qualification of these contracts by entrusting the chairmanship to a senior judge.

7.  Pass a law on access to administrative documents and publish on the Internet financial details of the state and public companies, such as the budget adopted and implemented by ministries and agencies, budget amend­ments, other public accounts, procurement contracts, etc.

8.  Reform the legal and institutional framework of the oil and mining sector, drawing on international good practice and civil society involvement, and join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

To create the conditions for the implementation of reforms

To Civil Society:

9.  Establish the anti-corruption forum set out in the national strategy for good governance involving companies, universities and rural and urban associations, and establish a citizen’s oversight commission to mon­i­tor public procurement practices, influence peddling, corruption in the land administration and illicit enrichment of public servants and politicians.

10.  Conduct social audits and an assessment of the “national integrity system”, the government’s anti-cor­rup­tion performance, the business climate and privatisation processes.

To the European Union:

11.  Ensure the fight against corruption features prominently in the dialogue with Burundi, prioritise governance in the eleventh European Development Fund and conduct an assessment of the aid by the European Court of Auditors.

To the other donors (African Development Bank, World Bank, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France, the U.S., Japan, etc.):

12.  Support civil society efforts against corruption, including training to improve knowledge of public finance, procurement and legal control.

13.  Include social audits in development projects and suspend projects where corruption has been proved.

14.  Link budget support to the implementation of independent institutional checks and balances and to progress in terms of governance and transparency of the administration.

15.  Conduct a performance audit on donor-backed institutional checks and balances and support them only after securing guarantees of their independence and conducting a performance audit.

16.  Ask the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to publicly release its assessment of the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption.

Access the full report here


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