Dealing with tenders is Kenya’s riskiest job

By: ANDREW TEYIE

The high profile arrest and prosecution of government officials in three key parastatals has exposed the often perilous lives procurement officers lead.

As secretaries to tender committees, procurement officers’ jobs are considered lucrative and, depending on which side they are, they either end up in prison for being accomplices or live in fear of corruption cartels.

History is replete with cases of professionals who stood up to corruption cartels and paid with their lives or accomplices in mega scams like Anglo Leasing, who were left to face the music alone by their former masters.

This week, procurement officials from Kenya Pipeline Corporation, Geothermal Development Corporation, National Water Corporation and National Youth Service were dragged to the courts for their alleged role in scams.

However, organisations representing the procurement profession say their officers, who are secretaries of tender committees, are professionals.

Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) Head of Secretariat Hedwig Nyalwal told Sunday Nation that procurement officers played a purely advisory role to user departments in the public or private sector.

“The procurement officer is a secretary to the tender committee. How much clout does a secretary have? The chairman of the committee is either the head of department or the chief executive of the institution. This contributes to corruption because these people may not listen to the secretary,” said Mr Nyalwal.

However, an official of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak on its behalf, claimed that procurement professionals have joined cartels, resulting in mega scandals.

“These cartels are faceless and ruthless. They design internal systems that, to all and sundry, seem to be protecting public funds but have inherent weaknesses that they exploit. This way, they control the paper trail for procurement to minutes of meetings, to employment records to inventories of equipment, materials, vehicles and schedules of a ministry,” says the official in a report made available to Sunday Nation.

RUTHLESS AND FACELESS

The report says where and when necessary “paper work is altered, minutes doctored, letters disappear and reappear when the deal is done. Anything that can implicate them in any wrongdoing is systematically destroyed and a good measure of threats and blackmail ensure that sleeping dogs lie and never to get up again”.

A veteran procurement officer who is now a director at KISM, Mr Japheth Gwaro, said they advise their members to put their recommendations in writing and keep copies.

He said there are two major trouble spots in procurement. The first is when user departments trash procurement plans which are drafted to suit their institutions.

The other is when user departments opt to fix prices and projects and goods are valued at higher prices that do not conform to the procurement plan.

However, the report made available to Sunday Nation describes members of evaluation and tender committees as ruthless and faceless individuals who deliberately design procurement systems with loopholes they can exploit later.

“The system works through inefficiency, deceit, outright lies, manipulation of accounting systems, budgets, rules and regulations, threats, intimidation, bribery of colleagues and outright blackmail,” says the report.

OMINOUS FUTURE

The report claims deputy secretaries, who double as administrators for ministries, lead the cartels that also include legal officers and heads of procurement.

“Finally, and most importantly, are the accountants without whom no payment can be made,” says the report.

It says apart from the legal officers, this group will always have an outside lawyer to advise them.

Initially, these were nondescript lawyers but reputable firms have now joined the gravy train.

“These act as the ‘AGs’ of the cartels; advising them how to create and manipulate legal loopholes, cover their agendas and seal their exits,” says the report.

According to the report, this “loose group will over a period of time coalesce into a notorious and greedy cartel that will have billions of shillings at its fingertips.

This will be used to bribe and intimidate any who oppose it, including ministers and the PSs in their own ministries.”

SOURCE: DAILY NATION