Let vetting lead to integrity in all the stages of procurement
We could rightly say that people, process and technology are the key elements for successful transformation of the enterprise called Kenya. The vetting of heads of procurement and accounting units focuses on the first and most important element — the people. Other than procurement and accounts, we must not lose sight of the need to vet all professionals involved in procurement. Defining and implementing articulate processes and application of suitable technologies are equally important elements for successful transformation.
The 30-day window in which the vetting process is to lapse is fast approaching and it is expected that there will be key learnings from this exercise. The Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) has taken the collective view that the vetting, which kicked off on June 1 in compliance with an Executive Order, will lend support across the board to the war on corruption. It is now anticipated that those senior public procurement and finance officers who undergo vetting and are cleared, shall return to work with a stamp of approval on account of their selfless and outstanding conduct.
As Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua stated in his circular actioning the presidential directive, the constitutional rights of every procurement and finance officer who undergoes vetting must remain inviolate. It is for this reason that KISM has expressed faith in this process. Nevertheless, we must continue to build mechanisms to safeguard the procurement process as part of the drive to curb runaway corruption in the supply value chain. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that procurement professionals are above reproach and are registered as members of the Institute for monitoring.
Ultimately, a mechanism will have to be established to ensure vetting is a continuous exercise, to instill discipline across all stages of a process that has frequently been abused. Beyond this, other weaknesses in the procurement process must be comprehensively addressed.
We are keen on the realisation of functional, efficient and effective procurement management regimes. We have been a strong advocate for laws and regulations that guide the setting up of fool-proof procurement structures, systems and processes. To ensure these structures, systems and processes are implemented as envisaged, there must be empowerment, resourcing and strengthening of initiatives and partnerships to build capacity in procurement. Enforcement of regulations touching on procurement at the organisation and individual practitioner levels is a priority. Ultimately the policy arm (National Treasury), the regulator (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority—PPRA), and the professional body (KISM) must work together to implement a functional procurement regime that serves the national interest.
To sustain gains from the vetting process, it is necessary to eliminate undue influences in the management of procurement. Laws and regulations that prescribe organisational structures to increase procurement accountability must be adhered to. This structures if implemented, can secure the procurement decision-making processes and shield procurement workflows from undue internal and external influences.
Standard tender documents, tools and templates being used by practitioners to carry out public procurement are outdated, thus creating loopholes that result in incorrect setting of evaluation criteria and subsequent bad decisions in the evaluation of tenders. This results in mis-procurement of contracts.
The IFMIS system which allows payments to contractors is not adequately synchronised to the procurement legal framework. The e-Procurement module of IFMIS is limited and does not fully support e-Procurement. It is necessary to ensure implementation of an e-Procurement system that supports all tendering processes and protects the e-processes from manipulation.
But ultimately it is individuals who are responsible for lapses in the processes. Therefore, all professionals who participate in procurement must uphold the ethical standards prescribed by their respective professional bodies. They must be registered and licensed by their respective professional bodies for purposes of continuous professional development and regulation of conduct through practice standards and disciplinary mechanisms.
KISM will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure that procurement professionals and the legal and regulatory frameworks in the supply value chain contribute to national development.
The writer is KISM Chairman.
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