Kenya: BBI report seeks to bar public servants from State tenders

Civil servants will be blocked from running private businesses or competing for government tenders if the Building Bridges Initiative report.

Civil servants will be blocked from running private businesses or competing for government tenders if the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, which is set to be made public today, is adopted.

The proposal, which was first made by President Kenyatta in January during the Anti-Corruption Conference at the Bomas of Kenya, was at that time hailed as a turning point in the fight against corruption.


The President directed the Attorney-General to draft a Bill that would restrain all public servants from engaging in private businesses, which are in conflict with the benefits of their offices.

“In line with the proposals made by this forum, I direct the Attorney-General to prepare a bill that will address the question of conflict of interest and the unintended consequences that arose from the Ndegwa Commission Report of 1971’,” he said. In a number of corruption cases currently in court, public servants used their own companies or those owned by family members to award themselves tenders at inflated costs or without following due procedure.

All this could be a thing of the past as the BBI outlaws even companies owned by family members of civil servants from doing business with government. Observers will, however, be watching keenly to see if this will reduce corruption as civil servants are known to register firms through proxies in order to win tenders.


In January 1970, President Jomo Kenyatta formed a commission to examine and investigate matters affecting the structure and remuneration of the public service, including workers paid daily, teachers, government staff, police, prisons, Judiciary and statutory boards. Armed forces and expatriate officers were excluded from the rule. The seven-member Commission of Inquiry was chaired by Duncan Nderitu Ndegwa — the first post-independence African head of civil service and later the first African head of Central Bank.

One of the burning issues that the Ndegwa Commission grappled with at the time was the possibility of private interests overlapping with public interests among civil servants in the course of their duties. The commission asked itself the question: Can public servants be trusted enough with sensitive government information, which they could easily use to advance their own financial interests?


At the time, the commission found that the public had confidence in their servants and the issue of corruption within the public service was not pervasive. However, it noted that there were instances where public servants had fallen short of the high standards required of them when dealing with government matters.

“We are not aware of any conclusive evidence, which would indicate that corruption or dishonesty are prevalent or that the confidence of the public in its servants has seriously been undermined,” noted the commission. With this in mind, the commission recommended that public servants could engage in private businesses so long as they maintained the high professional and ethical standards required of them.


However, this recommendation has been blamed for the runaway corruption that has bedevilled the public service, which has produced a number of questionable millionaire public servants since independence. This recommendation opened the doors to public servants opening their own companies to do business with government agencies they were working in or where their friends supervised.

The 1980 Civil Service Review Committed that President Daniel arap Moi appointed, ostensibly reviewed the execution of the Ndegwa Report and found it was abused.


“We have received overwhelming evidence to the effect that some public servants utilise government facilities in order to benefit themselves. Some are said to tender for government supplies and to see to it that their tenders are always successful.”

Source: Daily Nation