Fly-by tenders prove system rot - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 22 February 2021

Fly-by tenders prove system rot


No phrase has captured our imagination these past few years than ‘I was just walking by and heard of tenders and went in and got it’. It boggles the mind as to how a leisurely walk past a government office would earn someone a Sh350 million tender!

Either there is a rich lottery scheme run by the government that we ordinary mortals are yet to get wind of or corruption has now grown such deep roots in our society that is impossible to uproot. The ‘Ngiritas’ are multiplying and becoming a tribe unto itself. A species that lives, thrives and glitters on government tenders.

The most disturbing part of these ‘fly-by’ tenders is the process with which people are awarded them. Where minimum scrutiny is involved, sometimes without even having the goods and services to deliver.

The intriguing part is the shape and design of the companies involved, with many of them set up just hours before applying for government tenders for products and services they have little experience in.. Quite disturbing, we now learn that fly-by tender awardees are, in fact, flown in by faceless powerful individuals.

Goldenberg scandal

But the little people of the brave new world of fly-by tenders learnt from the government itself. Honesty deficiency has affected government procurement service for decades. We did not just wake up and become corrupt. We let it fester from the first big scandals swept under the carpet.

The impact that the Goldenberg and Eurobond scandals had on recent litany of scandals cannot be underestimated. The little people rightly ask why they could not get away with a few scandals if their masters are never punished for theirs.

It has almost become mandatory to be corrupt if you work for the government. Officials can make Jak Ma’s donations disappear, knowing there is no power beyond them that can question their actions. I mentioned Jack Ma’s donation because that scandal, like many others that were glossed over, is as if it never happened.

The truth is, denying something so glaringly obvious, like the looting of public funds, does not mean it never happened. When the government behaves dishonourably, it would be difficult for it to expect the citizens to play by the book.

I followed the recent tours of Cabinet secretaries around the many stadiums under construction and was shocked that they seemed appalled that, despite nearly 60-70 per cent of the advance money being paid in some cases, only about 10-20 per cent of the works were completed. And they discovered this after nearly 10 years of the jobs having been commissioned.

Duplicity from above

  Who in their right mind would make a huge downpayment from their pocket for a puddle of mud? Few, if any.. But since stadiums are publicly funded projects and, I bet, attract huge kickbacks, it was easy to commit huge sums upfront without bothering to follow-up on the progress.

With higher duplicity from above, those below the stairs are bound to follow suit and steal from public funds themselves. It is not a surprise, therefore, for ordinary Kenyans to turn to fly-by tenders as Big Buck scandals go on, unpunished.

The systemic failures I am talking about are not even centred around award of tenders to every Tom, Dick and Honey but where monies get paid in advance in dubious circumstances.

Checks and balances

Presumably, there are checks and balances within ministries and parastatals that should ensure probity of public finances but these seem unhinged and leaking. Add to the fact that the wheels of justice move incredibly slowly in punishing corrupt officials and you end up with systems that contribute to their demise through impunity.

Most government services are now automated and digitised, which should make audit of public funds a lot smoother. However, digitising systems alone does not appear enough in treating our hardcore symptoms of corruption.

We need to go the extra mile and change policies where the public can have the opportunity to periodically scrutinise the usage of public funds. Rather than the usual yearly audits, why not invest more in the relevant departments through technology and give quarterly reports, if not sooner?

Access to Information Act

All public and state officials also need to be more accountable to the citizens. With the Access to Information Act, it should be easier and, in fact, within the citizens’ right to contact ministries and demand progress reports of developments in their areas. Such transparency, I believe, will go some distance in fighting corruption.

The most important audit to be done by officials should be on ongoing works. That should happening more frequently than 10 years! Monthly checks and swift reports to the public would remove any doubt on corruption that keep lingering.

Contractors who fail to complete works on time are getting away with a slap on the wrist and billions of public funds. Should they not be in jail and refund the money for not delivering on their contracts?

Big Buck scandals and fly-by tenders point to serious flaws in our governance systems. There can be no deterrence without first punishing the officials fund to have been behind corruption activities.


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