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Suppliers yet to be paid as President’s deadline elapses

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WANJOHI GITHAE

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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Three weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Cabinet directed the National Treasury to pay all pending bills owed to the National Youth Service and Prisons suppliers, Sunday Nation has established this is yet to be done.

On March 19, the Cabinet was briefed on the status of outstanding payments in the Prisons Department and the National Youth Service (NYS). It resolved to set up a Sh14 billion special fund to pay genuine suppliers.

Barely a week later, on March 25, while addressing the nation on the state of the coronavirus pandemic, the President directed all ministries and departments to pay at least of Sh13 billion of the verified pending bills, within three weeks.

Suppliers, however, say the President’s directive is yet to be effected.

At Kenya Power, 2,000 registered companies that operate under the umbrella Power Transmission Line Contractors Association (PTLCA) claim that their claims totalling Sh2.8 billion are yet to be paid.

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The debt was incurred as a result of a tender for prequalification of labour and transport to contractors for the maintenance and new supply works to its national network grid for the year 2017-2018 by the then managing director Ken Tarus.

Mr Tarus, along with general managers, were arrested and charged with economic crimes.

“By the time of the arrest of Mr Tarus and his team, the contractors had carried out works amounting to Sh4.2 billion, of which some Sh1.8 billion was later paid to some companies, leaving out regions like Nairobi, North Eastern, Central Rift, Western and Coast are owed Sh2.8 billion which stands unpaid to date,” said Mr Magu Ngaire, who is the chairman of the contractors association.

The contractors petitioned the DCI over the said debt, which advised that genuine contractors who are not under investigation or facing active prosecution over the same be paid.

Kenya Power’s Corporate Communications Manger Kevin Sang said there was no discrimination in payments.

“Kenya Power has been paying and will continue to pay contractors for verified works and services which are not in dispute, have no ongoing investigations and are not part of any legal process. In regard to the Labour and Transport tender in court, we are awaiting conclusion of the ongoing criminal case to enable the company make a determination on payment for all verified claims,” he said.

At Kenya Prisons Service (KPS), suppliers have been told that they will soon be paid as the National Treasury has approved the payment of Sh6 billion bills.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said a team led by the Principal Secretary for Correctional Services Zeinab Hussein and the Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogalo is putting in place a framework of paying the suppliers. Some of the suppliers include public hospitals where inmates are treated.

Dr Matiang’i said the KPS had for the last two years operated without accruing debts and will never have delays in paying suppliers once the payment of the pending bills is made.

“We will begin the exercise shortly to clear the last batch of our pending bills which have taken time because all of them were historical bills incurred two to three years ago, first when none of us was in this department and, secondly, because issues had been raised about them by some accountability institutions in government,” he said.

The CS spoke at the KPS headquarters on Thursday, where he received Sh 12 million building and plumbing materials from the ICRC and the Kenya Red Cross Society for minor renovation works of sanitation facilities in prisons across the country.

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At the NYS, Ms Mary Kimonye, the Principal Secretary, State Department for Public Service in the ministry of Public Service, said due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision is yet to be effected.

“We set up a committee and hopefully in the next two to three weeks they will have finalised and we will pay immediately,” she said.

She added that the verification committee is comprised of representatives of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, National Youth Service and the Attorney General’s office.

This will be the sixth verification process for the NYS suppliers. Some have not been paid since 2013/14 financial year.

It will be a huge relief for them since the Cabinet has relaxed some of the stringent requirements.

“The Cabinet relaxed the rules and all we need to satisfy ourselves is that someone actually supplied what was sought. The President was clear that the mistakes created by technocrats like missing signatures should not guide us. The commitment is to pay everyone who supplied,” he said.

But a supplier, Ms Rinah Kirimi, wondered whether they will have to wait until all the verification is done.

“We have undergone these verification processes many times. We are dying in our houses because we can’t even access loans having not serviced the ones we took to supply,” she said.

NYS has accumulated pending bills totalling Sh9.3 billion from the financial years 2013/14 to 2017/18.

Past verification had isolated pending bills worth Sh6.7 billion that had not met verification criteria, mostly for lacking documents.

According to an internal document guiding the new verification, this will now be dispensed with.

“Given the nature of the pending claims mostly owed to Micro and Small Enterprises, the pending bills multi-agency team recommended that a final thorough verification of the historical pending bills be undertaken, taking into account the following minimum criteria: (a) evidence that the goods and services supplied were ordered for by the officer in charge (b) evidence that the goods and services were received and entered in the records of National Youth Service,” reads an internal document that will guide the new verification.

Early this year, EACC detectives camped at the NYS for two months investigating the so-called historical pending bills.

Their counterparts from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are already prosecuting former officials of the troubled institution on corruption-related charges.

The EACC officers descended on NYS in January and collected all documents relating to companies that supplied goods in the 2018/19 financial year.

At the Prisons Service, suppliers are owed Sh6 billion.

Some 2,900 suppliers are demanding Sh6.2 billion for items delivered to prisons across the country between 2009 and June 2018.





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