By Kinaga Mbugua
I never thought I would ever have to pen this article. Why? Because I am a believer. I easily trust. I give people a chance to prove their salt. I prefer to give trust a chance, and get disappointed, than fail to give it a shot, and end up regretting, forever wondering what the outcome would have been.
Flashback to February 2014.
The general elections are in full swing. Uhuru Kenyatta,has now been confirmed as Raila’s biggest headache, according to most opinion polls. At some point, he seems to close in the gap, and then stagnates. But he has managed to remain the undisputed first runners up in the presidential polls. Most CORD supporters will actually tell you that this was the eventual election outcome, had the BVR kits not ‘broken down’.
Teams are forming, and tension is looming. Both ends of the political divide are going back to their drawing boards for their final magic cards. That which will make all the difference. Some are flaunting their cards, to maintain their lead, whilst others to plan for their future after March 4th2014. They know too well that this is a lost battle for them. Maybe they will live to fight another day. Maybe they’ll choose to hang in there, until they cross the finish line. Just maybe….who knows?
The Jubilee team is oozing magic. They are selling like hotcakes especially in the rift and central parts of Kenya. Even the cushites seem to warm up to this ‘Digital Team’. Everywhere they go, they are leaving an almost convinced citizenry. Their campaign promises easily sells. Somewhere in Rift Valley, they have promised the youths a state-of-the-art stadium, that will help promote their trade. The kalenjins especially are elated. There’s no better news they have heard from any other presidential aspirant, that beats this. Their hopes soar, their trust is bolstered. They can’t wait for 4thMarch, and finish this business ‘round one’.
The duo then heads to Central kenya and its environs, and similarly cushions their aspirations and hopes. They are aware that these people don’t run. So they can’t promise a stadium, lest it’s turned into a mega shopping center, or worse still, a Mall!So they need, and must be appeased differently. And what better way than anything that smells like business?
The gospel sold here, soon spreads to Nairobi, Mombasa and eventually, to every part of Kenya. That as soon as March 6th 2013, any young person (including the young at heart) has equal chances to winning themselves a government tender, just like any other Kenyan. They were opening up Kenya, and its opportunities to each and every one of us. Not just to theselect, few privileged citizens. The 30 per cent allocation of government tenders to the youths, women and disadvantaged groups has been born; or rather, reincarnated.
Without delving much into the duo’s manifesto, I believe that this is one factor that shaped the confidence of Kenyans, on the Jubilee team, and eventually facilitated their triumph at the last polls.
Now, flash forward to present day.
It’s close to two years since Jubilee took office. Among their many promises, was tenders to the youths, women and those disadvantaged interest groups among us. The 30% tender allocation, introduced by the Kibaki administration and popularized by the Jubilee government is slowly proving to be the biggest spat on our faces as young people today. Its worse than chickengate, Angloleasing, Goldenberg and Triton scandal among others. Why?Because those are cases of the ‘dog biting man’. The latter is the reverse. It involves collecting the hopes of young Kenyans, puffing them and blowing them up, each one at a time, while laughing all the way.A mockery of the highest order.
For the benefit of those wondering what the intricacies of the ‘30% drama’ are, here are quick facts for you. In order for a youth to access these tenders, you must fulfill the following requirements:
Have a registered company. Now, this doesn’t just mean some creative name you come up with. Rather, the Registrar of Companies MUST have your company records.
This registered company MUST have a KRA Pin, and a valid Tax Compliance Certificate. Those who know will agree with me how hard this can prove, especially if one of the promoters has a VAT inclusive PIN that has been running for years without filling their returns. Some of these VATs are erroneously included during the initial PIN application, unknown to innocent victims.
Lastly and most importantly, you must register your entity with AGPO (Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), in order to get the requisite certification that proves that indeed, yours is a youth/women/interest group owned facility.
Despite having done all that, you still have no tender, and incase you have no financial ability to operate, it can’t get any worse. Fortunately (or unfortunately), most banks are now financing LPOs, to suppliers. But there’s always a catch. And for this case, it’s the collateral involved. I visited a bank the other day, and was informed that they only finance 70% of the amount. And the interest rate is at 18 per cent, payable within a maximum of 6 months. The collateral has to either be a logbook, or a title deed. That is not all. Most county governments and other government agencies, unknown to most suppliers, have been backlisted by banks and other lending institutions, due to forfeiture of payments. What does this mean? That you could source for finances to supply goods to certain government agencies, and be turned away by banks!
That’s what it all means to be a youth in Kenya, seeking to trade with your government.
In the coming days, an audit shall be presentedto the President Uhuru Kenyatta on tender allocations over the past one year. My crystal ball tells me that this won’t reveal much. This is why. The procedure of qualification for tender allocation to the youths has proven cumbersome and frustrating. Many of the youths cannot access the requisite funds needed to register the company, get YAGPO certifications and fulfill the financial ceilings set by procuring entities. Many do not have the collateral required, so they can have the tender allocated, and fail to live up to their obligations. And this how cartels have found an opportunity to benefit from. The old guards form companies, and invite the youth to be part of the company directors in order to fulfill the legal requirements. And once the process is completed and the AGPO certificate awarded, the youths are forced to give powers of attorney to the old guards, and later, sent on their way. So the company has an AGPO certificate, but is ran by an old guard. And the audits will never point this out.
If this government is honest about its plans and policies for the youths in this country, then it must act with utmost honesty. The last thing we need is a President and his machinery rocking the hopes and dreams of young Kenyans back and forth, while buying time for the next election.
What we need is not more legislation on youth employment and opportunities. As a matter of fact, we have enough legislation on this. It’s time the youths were offered a fair playing ground of trade.
I have been an ardent supporter of this regime, but I still have carried my brain along with me as well. And if the pot is black, then we must call it a black pot.And Jubilee my fellow Kenyans, IS A BLACK POT.
The writer is a political and socio-economic commentator