BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
It started with the Laptop project; then the Standard Gauge Railway project; we then moved to the Security Surveillance Project. Now, Parliament has blocked the new Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline project.
All these projects, despite the immense benefits that they point to, are now all lagging behind as unending “investigations” on the procurement process take long. Kenyans are waiting longer to see the benefits of these projects.
All the above projects are needed to help us deal with the challenges that are facing the country such as insecurity and high cost of transportation of goods and fuel. These are projects that will aid development of other sectors of the economy.
The delay will also drag the country’s momentum to achieving Vision 2030, which is supposed to elevate the country to a middle-income status. We cannot allow a few individuals, who may be out to make money, to delay development in the country.
What is common with all these projects is that they are all worth billions of shillings and have attracted major international investors. But the growing obsession by MPs to block the projects then give them a clean bill of health later is not only suspect but disturbing.
Are MPs out to sabotage development in the country or are they too overzealous with their oversight role? Why do they keep blocking these projects yet they know the country’s needs and their contribution to meeting them?
The country has elaborate procurement processes that, even though leading to corruption before, have proven to be effective. Why are MPs only pouncing on public tenders just when they have been awarded while they can look at them from the initial stages?Have Parliamentary Committees become a good ground for MPs to make money and blackmail Government and its suppliers? Are MPs becoming guns for hire and allowing rival companies to use them to fight their own battles?
There have been allegations that some MPs have used these committees to enrich themselves in the name of due diligence. These allegations, even if not proven, raise the question as to whether MPs have the best interests of the country at heart.
At times, we have seen that MPs jump into the procurement processes even without being petitioned by anyone. It is not to say that they are wrong since they have a duty to do so, but many times, it has been proven that they were not actually right.
When questions were raised over the railway project, we had two committees of the National Assembly “investigating” the matter. Other than the validity of these policies, the move by MPs raises the question on whether this is a prudent way of spending tax-payers money and parliamentary time.
MPs have been using these committee “investigations” to get extra earnings through sitting allowances and foreign trips in the name of case studies. Some of this information is actually available from the procurement committees in ministries.
Was it not possible for the two committees to work together and have joint sittings on the matter? At the end, the Transport Committee and the Public Investments Committee all came up with the same verdict – that the project should proceed.
We are seeing the same with the Pipeline project. The PIC has raised issues with the project just as the National Assembly Committee on Energy has. Don’t forget that the courts and PPOA have already cleared the project.
We must agree that we have procedures that guide the procurement process and there is need to ensure we respect the institutions put in place. Instead of MPs interfering with the procurement processes, they should allow the Public Procurement Oversight Authority, a creation of parliament, to handle issues arising.
It is true we have seen corruption taking root in mega projects in the past but this does not justify us using too much time for “due diligence” and coming with the same results. We must be able to trust our institutions and those we have put there to do their work without interference.
Any procurement process has stages that see various committees within ministries vet the same due to their work. MPs should, therefore, not purport to have more credence and standing in society to throw doubt at every process.
The procurement laws must be allowed to take their due course and help government achieve its developmental benchmarks. It is good to raise issues when they arise but it does not appear to make sense that every process must be questioned.
We must look at the benefits of all these projects and why they are needed. We must look at the overall need of the projects initiated by the government and eventual benefits to the country.
The national Parliament and county assemblies must, therefore, rise above partisan interests, which are at times being driven by selfish people and economic saboteurs.
(The writer is a political and communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)