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Calls for review of PPP laws

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 10 – A civil society organisation has called for the review of key pieces of legislation to enhance the governance of projects undertaken under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) platform.

A report by the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) indicates that amending the Privatisation Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal Regulations of 2009 would help ensure transparency and upholding of the rule of law in the development and implementation of PPP projects.

This was one of the gaps that were identified in a study which focused on under sea fibre optic cable, The East African Marine System-TEAMS-which is a pioneer project that encountered many structural and regulatory challenges that compromised the initiative’s governance.

“Given the innovative nature of the project and the fact that the government was investing a lot in pushing it meant that there were inherent conflicts in governance which arose, which we felt need to be better addressed through a tighter legal framework,” said AfriCOG Executive Director Gladwell Otieno at a media briefing on Friday.

The Privatisation Act, which provides the framework of how to divest from state agencies and enterprises, should be re-looked at to facilitate the government’s involvement in the development of PPPs as well as outline how risks can be shared with the private sector.

In the report dubbed “Unlimited Bandwidth?” the role of the Communications Commission of Kenya as the project’s implementer and the process by which additional investors were brought into TEAMS were also questioned.

“The intent of the law is to ensure the independence of the CCK as well as engage the citizens in policies that the government may impose on it. In the case of TEAMS, if the Act was followed, the (Information) minister should have gazetted a policy after stakeholders’ consultations in line with the precedent set of the existing ICT policy,” the findings indicated. 

And despite the huge public interest in the project which cost an estimated Sh10.4 billion ($130 million), there was limited information available on TEAMS’ progress. The fact that the initiative does not even have a website serves to fuel speculation on the project’s transparency and accountability. 

In future, the report recommended that the government should thus strive to have an effective communication strategy and provide a forum where stakeholders can access all the projects’ information and monitor their progress.

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But in a quick rejoinder TEAMS Board member Nzioka Waita said they would by February next year have a website that would provide an online portal where all stakeholders could access all the information on the project.

While admitting that they had been faced by a myriad of challenges in implementing the project, he termed the initiative as a ‘courageous’ and ambitious project that had helped to stabilise internet prices in the country.

Citing the awards that have been given to Kenyan companies for innovation in ICT in the last three months, he pointed out that TEAMS had also created many opportunities which have contributed to the tremendous growth of the sector.

Going forward, the management and all the shareholders in the project were working to ensure that they have enough redundancy for international traffic which can allow them to offer reliable internet services in the country.

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