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Tendering queries dog Sh1.9 billion school desks project

By Augustine Oduor | September 19th 2020

Excitement has greeted the Sh1.9 billion primary and secondary schools desks, lockers and chairs programme, even as questions emerged over the tendering process.

The government’s plan is a major boost to local jua kali artisans and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) involved in carpentry at the sub-county levels.

Of the allocated money, Sh1 billion will be used to make desks for secondary schools. The remaining Sh900 million will be used to make desks for primary schools.

“We appreciate the president has identified needy schools and we also ask other stakeholders to support the noble initiative,” said Kahi Indimuli, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chair.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the project on Thursday after inspecting one of the assembly workshops in Nairobi, when he also pleaded with county governments and MPs to use their education funds to support development of schools infrastructure.

Tendering deadline

Questions however arose over how the programme was launched a day before the tendering deadline.

Communication from the Ministry of Education inviting interested local jua kali workshops and artisans reveals that the deadline for applications was yesterday.

“Duly filled forms are to be returned to the aforementioned offices by September 18, 2020,” reads the ministry’s advert titled ‘procurement of locally assembled desks for schools’.

After the launch, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi tweeted: “President Kenyatta personally visited Dean Achesa’s workshop in Umoja. He is among the thousands of Kenyans selected to craft desks, lockers and chairs for public primary and secondary schools.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho and other top government officials were present.

It was not clear how the workshop and artisan was identified even before the deadline for interested artisans to submit their applications.

The project details reveal an elaborate plan of identifying the local assembly artisans and schools that are expected to benefit from the lucrative deal.

All artisans will be expected to have registered businesses, a bank account and a Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) PIN.

“Interested local jua kali workshops and artisans involved in carpentry at the sub-county levels are invited to register using prescribed forms that can be downloaded from the websites of the two ministries or collect them from the offices of Deputy County Commissioners and Assistant County Commissioners countrywide,” reads the advertisement.

Sub-county directors of education who spoke to the Saturday Standard said big or established workshops will not qualify for the jobs.

“The plan is to target the small traders or workshops to enhance their businesses through the economic stimulus package,” said one of the officials.

During the launch, the president said 622,257 desks will be assembled and delivered to both public primary and secondary schools.

Each of the primary school desks will cost Sh2,500 as secondary school lockers and chairs go for Sh3,800.

Risk mitigation

A total of 5,254 secondary and 5,136 primary schools will benefit from the programme. Each primary school will receive 70 desks while secondary schools will get 50 lockers and chairs.

In a statement released last week after addressing county commissioners, deputy county commissioners and county directors of education in Nairobi, Magoha cautioned against abuse of the process.

“This is not the time to ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ We are doing this for our children. As far as this project is concerned, there is nothing we cannot address. If there are bottlenecks, talk to us directly – not the usual bureaucratic practices,” he said.

Magoha said the government has instituted various risk mitigation strategies to prevent corruption in the project, adding that he will lead inspection tours to ensure the furniture is supplied according to the delivery terms.

Kibicho, who also attended the meeting, said the project presents an opportunity to rely on national government administrators.

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