The Governor of Tana River County HE Dhadho Godhana has issued a circular warning his County Executive Committee members (CEC’s) and County Chief Officers (CCO’s) to stop with immediate effect issuing tenders and contracts. Those who will not heed the instructions will be engaging in illegal transactions and should be ready to face the consequences.
The Governor took time to narrate the provisions of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act of 2015 and relayed statutes with a view to regulate issuance of tenders and contracts to strictly adhere to the law.
The Circular could be an indicator that all is not well with county procurement systems. This is a step in the right direction in the renewed war against graft. Although Tana River County does not have many high profile corruption cases compared to other Counties, it is not bad to take a proactive measures to prevent the vice.
The move to curtail powers of CEC’s & CCO”s in procurement even if it is well intended takes the County back to the error of the previous regime. The then Governor Hussein Tuneya Dado centralized all financial transactions so that he could have an upper hand in determining who gets tenders and who is paid.
The Governor, the, Chief Procurement Officer, CEC Finance and CCO works became so powerful and nothing could be done without their approval.
The centralized procurement system proved hectic and put the other Chief Officers who are officially the Accounting Officers at loggerheads with their counterparts.
Contrary to the Governor’s memo, in terms of procurement and expenditure of public funds, the law entrusts the responsibility to the Chief Officers who hold two key roles: that of Accounting & Authorized officers.
The first regime had to abandon the centralized system and devolved or decentralized the procurement and Finance matters to the Departments in accordance to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and PPAD Act. If you look at the County Budget monies have been allocated to Departments which officially makes the Departments Semi Autonomous and Authorized to incur Expenditure.
Departments are authorized as procurement entities to handle open tenders and quotations to a maximum of Kshs 5 million beyond this threshold the tender will be handled by the County Procurement Committee.
However, some time CCO’s break the rule and divide the tender into two with an intention of evading a certain procurement requirement. This makes the CEC’s & CCO’s in control of funds allocated to their Departments something any Governor may not like but that is the law.
The Governor’s circular may therefore be well intended but will face legal hurdles if the Accounting Officers decide to stick to their legal mandate of authorizing expenditure. It is very hard to expect a Chief Officer to append his signature to authorize payments of tenders where they were not involved. If anything goes wrong the law will hold the Chief Officers responsible because they are the Accounting Officers.
The role of the Governor is oversight to ensure that procedures are followed and the County gets value for money. This mandate does not require the Governor to muzzle the roles of CEC’s & CCO’s. This will create trouble for the Governor and may end up like his colleagues who have been battling numerous court cases mostly related to procurement.