Accounting officers to blame for pending bills; we will take them to court

It is a fallacy that the mess of the pending bills lies with the president or the governor although they have a duty to lead. [iStockphoto]

Beyond elections, one of the biggest worries for every supplier is the sanity of the incoming administration.

Today, thousands of suppliers are owed over Sh500 billion in unpaid bills—popularly called the pending bills.

In a country that has very well-set guidelines and strong institutions, the existence of the pending bills is an indictment of poor planning and careless spending by various agencies.

Today’s businessperson is well in the middle of a wall and hard rock. If it is not the rising cost of goods, it is the revenue man, the banker and all this would easily have been avoided if the bills were timely paid.

We all acknowledge the fact that Covid-19 strained many governments, but we have a duty as a nation to also protect the suppliers as we genuinely do protect employees.

In the modern world, the thousands of private firms supplying governments have a duty to tens of thousands of households who depend on them for daily meals, shelter and clothing through the salaries paid to staff as well as business-to-business engagements in fulfilling the government tenders and obligations.

As we head to the elections, we must question why the pending bills are not key agendas to the aspirants for gubernatorial seats, the four presidential candidates as well as the over 1,000 members of county assemblies who will be in charge of the budget process for the counties—where the bulk of pending bills lie.

This month, the Association of Public Sector General Supplies will be heading to court for a class action.

The main aim is to seek individual liability for the officers both in the county and national government who must be held accountable for ordering services and goods and not ensuring that payment is made.

This has caused economic anguish to thousands of families and even only broken homes.

To manage a procurement process is to ensure that ultimately the vendor gets compensated for the goods or services rendered. Anything to the contrary is and should be treated as economic sabotage, fraud and to the common vendor, this should also be ground for impeachment to ensure such officials never get close to public office again.

We thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for directing that all pending bills be settled. That, however, is yet to happen.

We are alive to the fact that the ball squarely lies with the accounting officers who are the chief officers in the county governments, clerks in the county assemblies and principal secretaries in the state departments/ministries.

It is a fallacy that the mess of the pending bills lies with the president or the governor although they have a duty to lead. The accountability for amounts spent, misappropriated and the likes should squarely be placed on the final accounting officer.

This is because the Constitution envisioned the powers of technocrats as accounting officers and holding them accountable was even made better by the Integrated Financial Management Information System.

We must stop hiding behind the office. 

Have peaceful elections.

Mr Gichuki is the National Secretary General of the Association of Public Sector General Suppliers. [email protected]    

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