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State procurement in limbo as key staff remain at home

NEWS
By Geofrey Mosuku | October 8th 2018
CS Rotich Henry

There is uncertainty over the fate of procurement and accounting officers sent on leave earlier this year for 30 days to pave the way for a lifestyle audit.

The over 1,000 officers remain at home as their forced leave enters the fifth month.

Their absence has reportedly affected Government procurement and payment processes, with those appointed in acting capacity neither conducting any procurement nor processing any payments since they do not have the powers.

“The Government is basically in paralysis. There are no goods or services being procured while payments have stalled. Pending bills now stand at about Sh200 billion,” an officer in the Government has claimed.

Appearing on KTN's Check Point programme last week, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich sought to downplay the impact of the pending bills, saying the payments would commence soon.

“We are starting to clear the pending bills, especially those owed to the youth under Access to Government Procurement Opportunities,” Mr Rotich told KTN’s Sophia Wanuna.

Tired of the long wait, the suspended officials have demanded to know their fate, with many of them saying they had endured frustration.

Some of those affected who spoke to The Standard said although they had complied with the directive issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the fact that they had not received any feedback from the Government had distressed them.

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“We were told to wait for a month, now it is close to five months. Although I earn a salary, I am still anxious as I do not know what is cooking. The worst part is that I cannot move on and look for a job elsewhere,” said one official.

Another official who headed the procurement department in one of the ministries said key departments in the docket had suffered in their absence, noting that the officials who took their roles in acting capacity could not fully discharge their duties.

“There are decisions an acting procurement and finance official cannot make. We have to be told our fate so that the departments can run smoothly,” said the officer.

Last month, the State announced that about 400 procurement and accounting officers had been cleared in the ongoing vetting ordered by President Kenyatta on Madaraka Day.

Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said due to the employer/employee confidentiality terms, communication to the officers as to the condition of return was to be effected by respective authorised officers.

However a month later, the officers are still at home with sources indicating that top Government officials are divided on whether to return them to office or not.

Whereas some of the officers were found in possession of unexplained wealth, the vetting had no legal backing and thus some feared that targeting those with unexplained wealth could prompt them to go to court.

Public service

In July, the High Court declared part of the circular by the head of the public service and secretary to the Cabinet, Joseph Kinyua, on the payment of salaries to officers who were not offering any services null and void.

Justice Byram Ongaya declared that the mass suspension of the public servants and paying them at the same time was not only unconstitutional but adverse on taxpayers.

“The court finds that the circular offended Article 47(1) which provides that every person has the right to administrative action that is expeditious, efficient lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair,” Justice Ongaya ruled in a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.

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