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NGOs want transparency in Sh1.9bn school desks project

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 25- A consortium of Civil Society Organizations has called on the Ministry of Education to publish detailed procurement information on locally assembled desks for public primary and secondary schools.

In a letter to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, Transparency International Executive Director Sheila Masinde said there is need for clarity on whether procurement laws were followed.

The government is spending Sh1.9 billion on desks for public schools, in what President Uhuru Kenyatta said will be purchased from local Jua Kali artisans as part of measures to pump money to the economy bartered by COVID-19 effects.

The organizations also want the government to extend the timelines to allow adequate participation of all interested potential service providers as well as ensure an open and accountable evaluation and identification process.

“Advise on whether this procurement will be managed in line with Regulation 108 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations 2020 that requires community participation and avail any report of a needs assessment that was conducted with a view of establishing the infrastructural and structural needs beyond the provision of desks as part of the plans for the planned reopening of schools (for instance bed capacity for boarding schools, spacing/expansion to ensure physical distancing in the classrooms and boarding facilities,” a part of the letter read.

Masinde further pointed out that the notice given to local artisans was too short for the target audience to allow for open and competitive bidding and raises legitimate concerns whether suppliers have been pre-selected and the advertisement was merely a formality.

“We note and appreciate measures taken by the Government of Kenya to contain the spread and contraction of COVID-19. Safeguarding citizens is part of the Governments’ obligation to save lives and livelihoods. We also recognize the potential power of awarding contracts worth 1.9 billion to the local jua kali sector to produce school desks under the current economic stimulus programme. We are however deeply concerned about critical transparency and accountability gaps in the recent advert on procurement of locally assembled desks for school and request your written response,”

On September 15, the Ministry of Education published advertisements for local workshops and artisans to submit duly filled forms initially by 18th September 2020 and then extended to 25th September 2020 for a contract worth Sh1.9 billion to assemble desks for public schools ahead of their reopening.

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