Corruption: How Kenya is fighting back through Open Contracting

In December 2019, the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) invited Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) to share its experience of working with  PPDA to promote Open Contracting at a workshop in Nairobi. OCP conducted the workshop in collaboration with the PPRA and Hivos East Africa.

The Ksh22 million bathroom towels

On my way to the Intercontinental Hotel, where the activity took place, I had an exciting talk with Odhiambo James, a taxi driver, about the state of corruption in Kenya. He spoke of his disgust at the government’s purchase of towels at Ksh22 million.

His outrage came from the $19 million Mega Dam scandal where it was claimed that one company was paid Ksh8 million for cutlery while another company was paid Ksh22 million for towels. Odhiambo wondered what role towels played in building a dam.

Work at Itare Dam has stalled as contractor files for bankruptcy

Despite recent controversies, Kenya has taken significant strides in making public procurement transparent in recent months, notably the launch of the newly redesigned Kenya Procurement Portal.

The Workshop

Breakout session during the workshop

This workshop was prepared on the backdrop of the Kenya government’s commitments to open contracting and to the Open Contracting Data Standard in several international fora. In recent months, the government, and PPRA in particular, have worked aggressively to make open up public contracting data to the private sector, citizens, oversight agencies and the government.

The workshop had four main goals:

  • Discuss challenges and opportunities for implementing open contracting in Kenya
  • Become familiar with the published Kenyan procurement data and what it contains
  • Generate insights from the Kenyan procurement data by collaborating with other interested parties
  • Discuss next steps to ensure increased contracting data publication and use in Kenya

Key takeaways

The training was very interactive and practical. Different groups of people shared different perspectives on how to best use, disclosed data, and provided valuable feedback to the government. Essentially, that’s what open contracting is all about. Three things became apparent at the end of the session:

Disclosure on its own is not enough

When disclosed information can not be reused or if people do not know how and where it can be obtained, the effect will not be felt. Citizens should be able to use this data and provide valuable feedback to the government to have an impact.

Completeness and data quality remains a significant challenge

Higher-quality contracting data is imperative. Most of the available data are historical. Timeliness and completeness are essential for a more significant impact.

Gender inclusion continues to be a significant challenge in public procurement

While Kenya has made great strides towards enforcing beneficial ownership measure e.g., through publishing provider’s register, women remain largely excluded from public procurement.

There were no gender-disaggregated data in the data analyzed at the workshop.

However, it was great to see that, amid all these scandals, government entities like PPRA are working with partners like OCP and CSOs like Hivos and AFIC to fight corruption through open contracting. After all, it is said that:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

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