Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. File | NMG


Austerity? Rigathi Gachagua splurges Sh10m on curtains

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua's office purchased curtains worth Sh10.27 million last year, even as he joined his boss in insisting that austerity measures were inevitable in the government.

Mr Gachagua’s office spent a total of Sh18.14 million on curtains and furniture alone, the Auditor-General has disclosed in an accountability report on spending of public funds in the national government for the year ended June 2023.

The amount spent on curtains alone could buy up to 12 houses under the affordable housing initiative going by the starting price of Sh840,000 for the units.

This exposes the extravagance within the government, at a time when millions of Kenyans continue to struggle economically.

While querying an irregular split of procurement for the curtains and furniture, the Auditor-General noted that the office spent Sh10.27 million on curtains and Sh7.87 million on furniture.

“During the year under review, the Office procured curtains and furniture amounting to Sh10,272,524 and Sh7,869,700 respectively all totalling Sh18,142,224 through request for quotations thereby splitting the procurement," Ms Nancy Gathungu, the Auditor-General, disclosed.

“This was contrary to Section 54 (1) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015 which requires that no procuring entity may structure procurement as two or more procurements for the purpose of avoiding the use of a procurement procedure except where prescribed.”

Under the government’s affordable housing programme, which the president and his deputy have heavily championed in the recent past, the cheapest house --one-bedroom units under the social housing category are set to be sold at Sh840,000 targeting Kenyans earning below Sh20,000 monthly.

The Sh10.27 million spent on curtains by Mr Gachagua’s office could buy 12 such houses.

The curtains’ budget is also enough to purchase 10 one-bedroom units under the programme's ‘Affordable Housing’ category, which is designed for Kenyans earning between Sh20,000 and Sh150,000 monthly.

Ms Gathungu also disclosed that the DP’s office did not pay suppliers Sh58.2 million during the year, passing the pending bills to the current financial year.

The Auditor-General also revealed other glaring loopholes in the DP office’s procurement systems, including cases where suppliers invoiced the office to pay for services even before the office requested the services.

The office procured goods and services amounting to Sh198.6 million during the year, out of which the Auditor-General found discrepancies in documents supporting the purchases.

“Documents provided for audit revealed various conflicts in dates from the time of initiating and processing the procurements for payment, with some invoice dates preceding user requisitions. This is contrary to Section 53 (1) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015 which states that, all procurements by State Organs and public entities are subject to the rules and principles of the Act,” the Auditor-General stated.

The DP’s office was also faulted for direct procurement of furniture valued at Sh2.4 million, where the office should have advertised for an open tender. Direct procurements are reserved for the procurement of sensitive or complex goods and services in the public service, where only a limited number of suppliers have capacity.

“Further, Management procured furniture amounting to Sh2,401,000 from one supplier using direct procurement contrary to provisions of Section 103(2) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015 which provides that an entity may use direct procurement if the goods are available from a particular supplier or a particular supplier has exclusive rights in respect of the goods and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists,” the Auditor-General stated.

While Mr Gachagua’s office was faulted for several procurement loopholes, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi’s office was, however, given a clean bill of health, getting a clean opinion from the Auditor-General and no query was raised on the office’s usage of public funds during the year.