Open contracting can make the fight against Covid-19 in Kenya more effective  

September 2, 2020

Hivos welcomes the swift reaction of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta following the exposé of alleged abuse of funds meant to buy medical supplies for the Covid-19 pandemic.

During Kenya’s Covid-19 Virtual Conference held this Monday, the President stated, “I also hereby direct that the Ministry of Health, within the next 30 days, must come up with a transparent open method and mechanism through which all tenders and procurement done by KEMSA are available online…” The new directive also calls for transparency in all government-related procurement processes at the national and local levels.

State agency KEMSA was already in the spotlight during the ongoing pandemic as the lead state corporation handling procurement and distribution of medical supplies in Kenya. Now, it is on the spot for supposedly having bought Covid-19 supplies at grossly inflated prices, allowing a few individuals to make millions in quick profits.

So the new directive is a necessary move that will go a long way in stemming persistent corruption and ensuring every Kenyan citizen enjoys the right to access proper health care as enshrined in the constitution.

Open Government Partnership

Kenya is a member of the Open Government Partnership and was recently appointed to its Steering Committee. This new role can only be effective through an ‘open government’ that is responsive and accountable to its citizens through open governance practices.

Approaches such as Open Contracting can also strengthen the new directive requiring online tendering. We urge the government to adopt this approach through the Open Contracting Data Standard – the best technological tool known for ensuring transparency and efficiency in public procurement through disclosure of contracts.

Local governments such as Makueni County have been frontrunners in adopting the Open Contracting Data Standard to improve disclosure of procurement information. Their commitment to improve the quality of life of citizens who are the ultimate recipients of government social services is truly commendable. We call on the national government and local governments to emulate this best practice.

Kenya can also strengthen its open response to the pandemic by strengthening and implementing its beneficial ownership commitments made at the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016. The first step is to open the existing beneficial ownership register to the public.

The recent appointment of Kenya to the global Open Government Partnership’s Steering Committee also reinforces the need for Kenya to embed open government approaches and values in its procurement and overall country governance.

Hivos reiterates its continued support for Kenyan civil society’s united demand for transparency and accountability in public procurement.

We equally call on development partners to support the full adoption of the open contracting approach in Kenya to ensure transparency for funding, which will increase the effectiveness of stimulus packages and safety nets for all.