The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has urged the Council of Ministers to act decisively in checking what it called “fraudulent procurement processes” that are allegedly dogging the EAC Secretariat based in Arusha, Tanzania.
Besides calling for the central decision-making and governing organ of the East African Community (EAC) to consider enacting a law on financial and procurement management as a necessity, the regional lawmakers also recommended strict compliance with the EAC financial rules and regulations and want punitive action taken against officials who violate rules and procedures.
This came up as lawmakers debated a 27-page report of the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges on the matter of investigation of procurement of group life insurance Company for the Community.
During debate, in Kampala, yesterday, there were mixed reactions although a majority lawmakers spoke strongly against alleged scams at the Secretariat, the executive organ of the Community, which is mandated to ensure that regulations and directives adopted by the Council are properly implemented.
MP Abubakar Zein (Kenya) said what he read in the report was “akin to fraud, theft and defrauding the Community.”
“Delay [in procurement as reported] was part of an orchestrated design. This is choreographed theft,” Zein said. “The management also ignored the legal advice of the Counsel to the Community and in so doing put the Community and those who serve it at risk.”
The EAC Secretary-General, Amb. Libérat Mfumukeko, insisted that during his new term, since last year, he focused efforts on putting things right.
Mfumukeko said, in September last year, his office did not hide the fact that there were procurement issues.
“As the accounting officer of the Community, I am aware of the issues and I am committed to addressing them,” Mfumukeko told the Assembly.
The report, presented Wednesday by MP Peter Mathuki (Kenya), indicates that “there was evidence to substantiate the claims of influence peddling around this procurement.”
Last year, documents obtained by The New Times pointed to a corruption scandal linking Mfumukeko and others to influence peddling in a procurement saga where a contract was purportedly awarded to an insurance company that had come third in the bidding process.
Liberty Life Assurance Kenya Ltd, the third lowest bidder whose financial offer was $746,090, allegedly got the contract instead of the real winner, Britam Life Assurance Company, whose offer was $480,008.
Regarding the implications of the malpractices Mathuki, on Wednesday, said his committee observed that all “named general principles were disregarded” and violated in this procurement.
There was no value for money to pay $308,905 for six months instead of paying $480,008 for the whole year, Mathuki said.
“Extension of contract to the loser is acting against effective competition. When the winner is denied a contract and given to the loser is a clear unfairness and lack of integrity on the part of the Secretariat. There was no transparency in the extension of contract and the interests of the Community,” Mathuki said.
Mfumukeko, who denies involvement in the fraudulent affair, was appointed to the position last year by the Summit of the EAC Heads of State for a five-year term.
The Assembly, yesterday, resolved that all recommendations be effected and that the Council of Ministers reports back to the Assembly by March.
The stand-in chair of the Council, Dr Susan Kolimba, who is Tanzania’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, affirmed that the Council of Ministers would take into consideration all the recommendations contained in the report.
The Secretariat is going to make sure they do whatever it takes to ensure that things are put in order, Kolimba said.
MP Martin Ngoga (Rwanda) said there were structural weaknesses and shortcomings in the instruments in place of accountability and this must be corrected.
Saying that “we smell a rat somewhere,” Ngoga notted that it was important that no one should look at the committee’s work as “a political exercise.”
“This has not been a political exercise. It is about issues of accountability; issues of governance. And no partner state condones bad governance.”