By Edward Njoroge
The last year has been hard on the KEMSA team, because an organization that has been doing amazing work since it was assented by the President through an Act of Parliament in 2013, had a major misstep that cost us the trust and regard of our partners and Kenyans at large.
As always, turbulent times bring out the fighting spirit in human beings and organisations and we are glad to say that the last year has been a steep learning curve for us at KEMSA. We were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons for too long but this prompted us to relook at how we operate.
Indeed, public procurement is an important tool for strengthening and supporting governance reforms and better public sector performance in the country. We want to play our role in ensuring we contribute to sustainable public sector reforms going forward.
One of the first items we have undertaken under our reforms agenda as KEMSA is to step up our plans to guarantee access to quality Health Products and Technologies (HPTs) supply to more than 8,000 facilities in the national public health care system.
We have floated two competitive tenders for pharmaceutical products as a first step to turning the institution around and regaining Kenyans’ trust. Tender delivery is a big part of our reforms and we will now be doing all procurements online through the Integrated Management Information System (IFMIS) system (www.supplier.treasury.go.ke) for visibility and transparency.
In our journey towards transparency, we hosted a pre-bid conference recently for prospective bidders. It was an interesting exercise as we worked hard to assure local manufacturers and disadvantaged groups that their products and services are valued as much as those of their international counterparts.
It is unfortunate that some suppliers feel undervalued and we will purposely work to correct this as we ensure that the highest standard of ethics and integrity is maintained during the procurement, selection and execution of all contracts.
As we continue our inward-looking journey, we are not only looking at the structural issues that needed to be updated for us to operate in the current environment, we are also looking to rebrand and reintroduce our mandate to Kenyans and our partners.
We have been fortunate to have partners who are holding our hands through this time. We appreciate that quality, timeliness and appropriateness of procured inputs largely determine whether the public investment will succeed.
We are now heavily reliant on ICT so that we can have an efficient public procurement system that is vital for achieving accelerated growth and development in the country. We can now keep track of all shipments, warehousing and distribution details at the touch of a button.
We realise we have to adapt or perish and we are grateful to partners and government agencies that have been keeping us accountable through the process. The multi-agency stakeholder approach has made sure that all our partners are kept in the loop and regularly updated.
Another area we are keen on going forward is incorporating citizen participation thus generating more relevant, responsive and effective government policies, budgets and services.
Social accountability makes government institutions and services account publicly for their performance and that is where KEMSA wants to be. We want our underbelly to be exposed, so that we can remedy all that ails us.
Together with the KEMSA board, we will ensure that it is inclusive and participatory. Public procurement is an essential governance arena, and the way we execute our mandate will be reflected by our level of social accountability.
The writer is the Acting KEMSA CEO