Joel Buku Munyori
Sr. Procurement Specialist, Solutions and Innovations in Procurement, Governance Global Practice, World Bank
Records are vital to every aspect of the governance process. Efficient records management in public service is an essential tool for effective service delivery and good governance. Well-managed records facilitate the achievement of transparency and accountability, help to reduce corruption, and create a conducive environment for efficient decision making and service delivery. Good record keeping also has strategic importance: public servants must have ready information to carry out their work and records represent that crucial source of information. Well-organized records provide a reliable, legally verifiable source of evidence of decisions and actions taken by an organization over time. They document compliance or noncompliance with set laws, rules and procedures. World over, governments can no longer justify taking action with little or no reference to their past performance, or relying on lessons learned to set future goals. Client service, quality performance of tasks, and measurable outcomes are increasingly important responsibilities for governments, and these aspirations all depend on accessible and usable records.
Without good records management, public administrators would find it more difficult to retrieve the information they need to formulate, implement, monitor policy and manage key personnel and financial resources. This situation impedes the capacity to carry out economic and administrative reform programs aimed at achieving efficiency, accountability, and enhanced services to citizens. Collapsed record keeping systems in countries makes it virtually impossible to determine responsibility for actions and to hold individuals accountable, thus stifling development outcomes.
Poor records management has often become an excuse for ‘unexplained’ decisions and actions such as payments to suppliers and contractors without evidence of signed purchase orders/contracts, awarding a contract without any supporting documents to substantiate the legitimate selection of the supplier/contractor and making amendments to contracts without supporting documents. These excuses have the potential to divert taxpayers’ money and resources for personal and/or other undisclosed gains, which sadly make it very difficult for development practitioners to make the twin goals of the World Bank, ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity, a reality. We have good news from this example set by Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA). While I acknowledge that there are many such good examples across the globe, I sincerely hope this specific example will serve as a good lesson for many government partners in Sub-Saharan Africa. The US$ 100 million Kenya Heath Sector Support Project (KHSSP) financed by the World Bank aims at improving delivery of essential health services to the Kenyan poor and the establishment of effective planning, financing and procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. To this end, project design allocated US$6 million for a sub-component on strengthening procurement systems in the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) (a state corporation established in 2001 under the Ministry of Health with the mandate of procuring, warehousing and distributing drugs and medical supplies for prescribed public health programs). Before the project was conceived, KEMSA was struggling to discharge its core mandate, improve visibility in its supply chain operations, and provide an integrated platform for the management of its information, finance and products. The Bank financing supported further development of structures and processes within KEMSA, as well as the rational use of drugs, procurement capacity development, upgrading of warehousing, logistics information and supply chain management.
The procurement systems strengthening sub-component was designed to support, among other things: (a) enhancement of procurement systems; (b) rational use of drugs and quality assurance through efficient stock management; (c) strengthening of distribution function; (iv) establishment of a logistics management information system; (v) establishment of a strategic planning unit; and (vi) the improvement of accountability among all players in the supply chain. The project provided technical assistance in the design, procurement and installation of modern and efficient procurement records storage and retrieval system to improve document access, transparency and accountability in the procurement, warehousing and distribution of drugs processes, and to facilitate effective and efficient financial and procurement audits. Software for forecasting and scheduling procurements, based on demand and stock levels, were also part of the reforms put in place.
As a result of increased efficiency in service delivery and competitive product pricing, all devolved units of government in the country have fully identified and embraced KEMSA as their first point of call in the procurement of essential medicines and medical supplies. KEMSA has been recognized both nationally and internationally and last year received two international awards one for its quality management systems in medical commodities supply chain management and the other for the Best Enterprise of the Year from the European Business Assembly. Last year, KEMSA also secured a US$650 million contract through USAID for a five year medical commodities program that will offer supply chain services of US government funded products on HIV/AIDS, family planning, nutrition and malaria drugs and commodities; this is the largest direct US government award to a state agency globally. During the program launch, KEMSA’s CEO noted that the award was a clear testimony of the US government confidence in KEMSA’s supply chain systems and its ability to undertake parallel medical commodities supplies. On its part, the Kenya government assured all development partners that it will continue to support investment in governance and the improvement of supply chain systems and structures at KEMSA for better health service delivery to all Kenyans.
This transformation has also made post procurement reviews much more efficient and enjoyable. Post procurement reviews can now be carried out without prior notice and in the absence of procurement staff. Professional Records management staff have been employed and because of the new system, all that is required is the description of the contract and the financing details and all transaction documents retrieved within minutes.
To further enhance good governance in the country, the Bank is rolling out these achievements to other government line ministries and entities encouraging them to partner and benchmark with KEMSA in the development of their records management systems. During identification and preparation of new projects, the Bank is working closely with the government in setting aside funds under the new projects that would be used to support the improvement of records and information management systems of beneficiary entities. A case in point is the Kenya Statistics PforR project approved by the Board in September 2015, where a DLI on the establishment of a records and information management system was included as part of the project’s development outcomes. The funds allocated will support Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in attaining an ISO certified Records Management System.