Enhancing procurement efficiency for sustainable development county by county

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County Procurement Practitioners with UN Representatives led by OMT Chair Catherine Masaka (fourth right, front row) during a training session in Nairobi.

Just over four years ago, following the 2013 general elections, Kenya adopted the two-tier governance system by creating forty-seven counties to complement the national government, bringing into effect one of the key changes anticipated by the constitution promulgated in 2010
Reflecting on the four years, there exist plenty of gains as well as opportunities for learning, all with a view to developing further the devolved government structures for effective service delivery.
The introduction of the devolved government system was borne out of the long-standing desire to take government closer to the people and address their unique development needs according to their priorities.
So far, devolution has been noted as a “game-changer” especially owing to an increase in public participation. However, more needs to be done to empower citizens to engage in county planning, budgetary allocation process for development projects in line with their priorities, execution of development plans, as well as monitoring progress and holding their county governments to account through transparent mechanisms that allow immediate feedback from citizens and timely response.   The Devolution Conference 2016 review report indicated that issues relating to capacity building, monitoring, accountability and transparency in relation to public procurement were of key concern. This created an opportunity for engagement with the UN as a key development partner in seeking solutions to procurement challenges facing counties’ operations and management.

Why it is critical to build and support procurement capacity

Compliance to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015  which took effect 7th January, 2016, requires all procurement practitioners to have professional certification as well as ensures that 30% of all tenders are accessed by the disadvantaged group of women, youth and people with disabilities (PWD). This was identified as an important starting point in ensuring that counties and procurement practitioners were compliant and thus lack of implementation was termed as illegal.
Although the innovative support to the UNDAF implementation termed, Support of County Procurement Capacity Initiatives focused on the initial seven counties of Turkana, Marsabit, Laikipia, Migori, Baringo, Garissa and Kilifi the preliminary results show potential benefits in scaling up towards the remaining 40 counties. The initial pilot counties were predominantly identified by the Operations Management Team (OMT), because of convergence of their engagement with the various UN Agencies: UNDP Kenya, UNICEF Kenya, WFP Kenya, UNFPA Kenya, FAO Kenya, UNOPS, WHO Kenya , UN Women KCO,  UNHCR, UNON   UNESCO , IFAD and UNAIDS. The programme aims at enhancing coherence, reduction of transaction costs, simplifying business processes as well as enhancing operational efficiencies and cost effectiveness in delivering as one.  As Ms. Jacqueline Mogeni notes, “As the CEO of Council of Governors, I am a mother of forty-seven and it is difficult to choose only seven but for us to kick start this process we had to agree to start from somewhere, though my ambition will be to see that training, coaching and mentoring of procurement practitioners is prioritized and implemented in all the counties, with no county being left behind”.

OMT Masaka

What is the vision for the future?

The Council of Governors CEO therefore proposes that peer learning and exchange be made possible through formalized communities of practice to be hosted and facilitated by the Council of Governors secretariat.  This will be a building block on the innovation already taking place as demonstrated by the informal group of twenty-three recently trained practitioners who are already sharing day to day experiences via vibrant social network groups such as WhatsApp. According to Ms. Catherine Masaka Chair of OMT and a participant in one of the WhatsApp groups, “This informalized means of communicating is creating great opportunities for learning among those who were already trained, but unfortunately leaves out interested parties from the other forty counties yet to be reached.’’ Ms. Masaka notes that ‘‘The good thing is that those who have been trained are willing to engage and share their experiences with others.”
The Council of Governors through the CEO is ready to spearhead this proposed innovative structure and is working to partner with the OMT on the best way to formalize this learning and knowledge sharing structure.

Can we build a bustainable model, moving from funding to financing?

With 15% of the counties reached, resources to scale to the remaining 85% remains a top priority.  It is through deeper partnership and consolidation of progress achieved so far that this can be possible. The County representatives are keen to access the training and support through the Council of Governors. However, to ensure acceleration and uptake, opportunities for internal county resourcing will be fundamental.  In addition, this is a model that has enlisted interest beyond the Kenyan borders with other countries in the region expressing a need to learn from this experience. Rwanda OMT has already visited Kenya OMT and expressed interest in the Kenyan experience creating other opportunities for cross-border learning. As counties lead the process with the support of UN Agencies, suggestions on how others have addressed challenges and opportunities would be a great learning for Kenya.

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