Until we realize the role inequality plays and challenge it; buses won’t be the only thing killing us

Posted by on 17th October 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

This country treats its poor with an unrivaled disdain. To be poor is not only a crime; it is also punishable by death. Worse still, the country has little time to think about the 55 people who died in a grisly road accident a few days ago.

We’re a country that can’t stick with one story long enough to digest it. We move from one scandal to another and the problems of the majority poor are too much to stay on one thing long enough to deal.

Sadly, the ruling class knows this and is actually counting on it. Not even death can keep us lingering. We’ve moved on to the next hot topic – for now it’s the IEBC drama. The week before the accident, it was the Monica murder and before that, it was the Sharon murder.

We move from one story to another completely numbed; unable to realize how tragic some of these stories are. Not even the fear of consuming deadly sugar has made us pause and think. We are a society conditioned to move on.

Our focus now is on the IEBC. The electoral agency has been treating us to a series of dramatic events since the bungled August 8th General Elections last year. The CEO got fired last week over gross misconduct but the Chairman is now pushing to have him, together with the other commissioners who resigned unceremoniously, charged for abuse of office.

This is a commission whose dismal performance indirectly led to the death and loss of property of majority poor in the slums. If their actions indirectly led to the death of someone important, they would probably been disbanded. But the justice in this country is much slower when it comes to the poor.

We are allergic to proper planning, preferring knee-jerk reactions instead and maybe it’s for this reason that we need to stay a little on this recent road carnage. The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) displays on their website that as of October 8, 2018 – 2,345 people had lost their lives compared to 2,162 who succumbed to their injuries in 2017.

That our MPs suspended their business of the day momentarily to offer condolences to the bereaved families and talk tough shouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s been the established mode of engagement. A building collapses killing hundreds and our MPs will suspend their debate to talk tough and warn imaginary people.

Whether the poor are dying from preventable diseases or poorly constructed buildings or a road accident, the mode of engagement remains the same. In fact the authorities will blame them for renting the houses because they’re supposed to have gone to NEMA to confirm if their landlord had adhered to the standards? The expectations of the leadership of this country on its majority poor is mind-boggling. They will say anything, except taking responsibility.

So 55 people perished and we have moved on and the much the public can do is to quote for each other the statistics and pray they won’t be part of that statistic next year. The majority poor that’s most affected, don’t demand for better either.

The public transport system is run by rogue individuals and SACCOs that are more into profits than the people they’re supposed to be serving. They increase the fare at the sign of rain with no sympathy over majority of their customers who struggle to make ends meet. The matatus are driven dangerously by people who never went to driving schools but the narrative is people are dying because they do not complain to the driver when he’s speeding.

The all important question is: why should the passengers have to remind the driver how fast he should drive when the law requires that these vehicles be fitted with speed-governors and those with faulty ones kept off the road? Have we now delegated this duty to the passengers?

Besides, the NTSA recommended (following increased deaths on the road) that Public Service Vehicles (PSV) operators and companies building bus bodies to observe best practice. Yet, these companies together with the industry operators continue flouting the rules building substandard bodies that are death traps. An NTSA official questioned the point of having seat-belts when the seat itself is thrown out of the bus in the case of an accident?

Forget the public transport system; there’s nothing public in this country that is run efficiently. Not even the government itself. We’re having scandal after scandal with no major consequences or high profile individuals going to jail.

Walk into any public school and you will be met with a sorry state of affairs. From overcrowding to dilapidated infrastructure. Heck! Even the institution charged with publishing books for children in public schools had to recall the books after a public outcry. And that’s a classic case of the lack of thought put in activities meant for the public.

Until as a society we realize our problem is a class problem and address it from that angle; we shall continue dying in public hospitals with no medicine or in un-roadworthy vehicles. How can we push government to be more responsive to its people’s needs regardless of class?

Affirmative action; balanced representation or advancing interest of the marginalized?

Posted by on 5th October 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Politics and politicians in Kenya are the unwanted gifts that keep on giving. We hadn’t even mulled over that chaotic impeachment of the Nairobi County Speaker or that strange condition that requires she travels first class, and now MCA Mary Njambi decided it was time Nairobians realized they’re paying for someone who never wanted the job, let alone knowing her job description.

What was more disturbing about this disclosure was the nonchalant manner in which the Nairobi city MCA narrated her initial lack of enthusiasm in the job and the appointing authority’s insistence that she was the person for the job.

In light of this revelation, is it therefore far-fetched, to imagine the unnamed appointing authority; who must be acting on behalf of the party was equally clueless about the functions of an MCA – a nominated MCA for that matter?

It’s not hard to imagine majority Kenyans don’t know the functions of their elected leaders. I mean, the fact that we vote in the same individuals and spend an entire election cycle complaining, confirms we don’t get what elective leaders are supposed to be doing; otherwise we would vote differently.

However, it is one thing for sections of the society to not know the functions of say, an MCA, and it’s totally another for an MCA to admit ignorance of the role for which she holds.

Considering the government is telling the overburdened tax payers to tighten their belts further as it tries to navigate out of this economic crisis, isn’t it about time we had the uncomfortable discussion on the role of nominated leaders; especially now that we’re paying heavily for some of them who are not only ignorant of their role but also never wanted the job to begin with?

The reasoning behind this premise is that, elected leaders (Senators, MPs and MCAs) all somewhat knew what the electorate wanted and managed to convince their constituents enough to get voted. To that end therefore, we can argue the elected MPs know their JD; whether they deliver is a story for another day.

Nominated Members of Parliament and County Assemblies on the other hand are individuals who may (as in the case of MCA Njambi) be disinterested in the job they’re being offered or are not driven by the same passion as their elected colleagues because they lack a constituency they really care for and understand.

It’s therefore important to debate the role and indeed relevance of these special seats especially when we can’t quantify the return on investment.

At the core of this debate is, what role is affirmative action playing in our Parliament? Is it purely to balance representation? That is, ensure marginalized groups: the youth, women and people living with disability (PWDs) have a seat? If that’s the sole reason then there’s nothing to debate further. We must accept that we’ll always have some nominated MCAs, MPs and Senators who are not worth their salt but will somehow reduce the number of male domination or create a semblance of inclusion of the youth and PWDs.

However, if affirmative action goes beyond balanced representation and is indeed concerned with championing the interest of these marginalized groups; then we need to debate about the caliber of people chosen to represent these groups to ensure they truly represent their concerns in Parliament.

Additionally, we need to have a further debate on the right of recall. At the moment it only touches on those elected. Nominated Senators, MPs and MCAs therefore are not answerable to the electorate because the law is silent on how the electorate can deal with them when they’re underperforming – with regard to the groups they’re purported to represent.

When an MCA goes on live Radio and boldly reveals she informed the appointing authority she has no idea what the role entailed and she was still nominated and continues to draw salary for a job she can’t do by virtue of that admission; we are failing as a nation if we can’t make laws that allow Wanjiku to recall such an individual on grounds of incompetence.

The President and MPs all claim to care for Wanjiku, but how sincere is the Executive and Legislature?

Posted by on 2nd October 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

President Uhuru Kenyatta had termed the decision by MPs to suspend the implementation of the 16% VAT on petroleum products as “good politics, but bad leadership” he went on to say that the MPs had chosen an easier path, and to that end he was probably right. But did he also choose an easier one?

The MPs indeed chose an easier path when they postponed the 16% VAT without considering how the government was expected to meet the revenue gap created as a result. In fact, even with the enactment of the Finance Bill 2018 into law there’s still a gap of about Sh17 billion after the president attempted to appease the public by slashing the VAT on petroleum products from the 16 to 8%.

And while the president struggled to assure the public their taxes will be used prudently following the many corruption scandals that have seen tax payers lose billions of shillings; the devil as we all know are in the details. There’s a need to scrutinize the budget closely and see what exactly we’re funding.

For instance, this financial year, the government is planning to spend the equivalent of 15.9 percent of our GDP (Sh1.55 trillion) on recurrent expenditure. Meanwhile, the development expenditure is projected to cost Sh625.1 billion (equivalent to 6.4 percent of our GDP).

It’s worth noting that our appetite for debt also ensures an increased recurrent expenditure because of the interest payments factored under recurrent. However, a bloated wage bill remains the big elephant in the room, but first things first.

To begin with, the President whether out of political shrewdness or outright disregard for the wage bill crisis, created new offices that appeared as an attempt at bringing back the Assistant Minister positions through the back door. He said these positions – Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS), would help the Cabinet Secretaries better coordinate the affairs of their respective ministries. Needless to mention the position comes with office staff and all the perks enjoyed by an officer at that level.

The President made that announcement in January with the full understanding of the wage bill crisis. In fact, at the height of campaigns last year, the President supported the proposal by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to reduce the pay for State officers and get rid of a range of allowances. He was quoted saying, “The days of wasteful allowances and peculiar but inexplicable payments are behind us. Better and more prosperous days lie ahead,”

Yet here we are with a more bloated Executive than we had in President Uhuru’s first term and Legislature that’s fighting the SRC on the same implementations which brings into question their sincerity on reducing Wanjiku’s tax burden.

National Assembly for the first time, or so it seemed stood together with the majority public following the chaotic session that saw the dramatic passing of the Finance Bill 2018. A number of the national papers commented on this defiance or refusal to bow to the House leadership.

However, some of the MPs particularly Gatundu South’s Moses Kuria didn’t shy away from calling out his colleagues on the matter. As a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, he argued the MPs were being insincere because you couldn’t pass such a budget and not think about how it was going to be funded. Other experts also thought it was a charade meant to hoodwink the public.

Of course the MPs would want the public to believe their effort was sincere. If indeed our MPs are truly feeling the burden that the Kenyan Tax payers are feeling, then they should take an interest in the odd fact that the ratio of our recurrent expenditure to development is always growing disproportionately.

More importantly, they should look into the ballooning wage bill that they themselves have become a stumbling block. To show their seriousness, let Parliament withdraw the case against SRC and accept the salary scales as well as other allowances as gazetted by the commission. This could save the country an annual Sh8.8 billion annually.

The President as the head of the Executive would do well to remember his own statement on the matter that, “All of us in the public service must remember that this is a calling and that is what servant leadership is about.” And like him, MPs as elected leaders must observe the same.

This will not solve everything but it’s a good starting point and communicates genuineness from both the Executive and Legislature. It would also provide a good healthy relationship to begin tackling among other issues the overlapping nature of some state corporations or the need to deal with such things as the controversial NGCDF and the Affirmative Action Fund.

If two wise men always agree, one is redundant; if Legislature always agrees with Executive, perhaps we don’t need it.

Posted by on 24th September 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Montesquieu, the French Political Philosopher is credited for having introduced the principle of separation of powers in one of his popular works, “The Spirit of laws” in the 18th century. He argued that if all three powers (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) were held by the same person, then there would be a dictatorship and arbitrary rule would prevail.

The 12th Parliament has unfortunately appeared more interested in pleasing the Executive than over sighting it – right from the moment the MPs took oath of office. They hurriedly amended the election laws in what they thought would give President Uhuru and his deputy an upper hand should the Judiciary attempt to nullify the elections.

And what little hope left for Parliament to challenge the Executive was extinguished on March 9, after President Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga shook hands in the name of giving peace a chance. What the country didn’t know at that time, was that the opposition MPs would also be whipped into doing the Executive’s bidding as was the case last Thursday.

That Parliament was unable to veto the President’s memorandum on the Finance Bill, despite the overwhelming support by the public to shoot down the memo was a clear indication that MPs are not afraid of their employers (we, the people), but the Executive. And that the President hastily signed Finance Bill, 2018 into law as the opposition makes incoherent statements is proof enough that Wanjiku is on her own.

The events of that special sitting on Thursday last week will be remembered for a very long time, especially because of the manner in which the House Leadership conducted itself. If one was to watch again that debate, one would conclude that the House leadership had an already determined position – upholding the President’s memo at all cost; even if it means flouting House rules.

Otherwise, the Temporary Madam Speaker, Hon. Soipan Tuya wouldn’t have played deaf and ‘rigged’ the vote to ensure the President’s memo stands. One only needs to check the conversations on Twitter at that time under the hash tag #FinanceBill18 or #TaxVoteKE to see how everyone outside Parliament clearly heard the Nays overpower the Ayes, yet the latter still carried the day.

Consequently, Speaker Muturi wouldn’t have upheld the same shambolic results when he could’ve reviewed the Parliamentary footage. Never mind that the voting was done without taking a head count of members present. And let’s not even debate how the Majority and Minority leader, including minority whip engineered a quorum hitch.

Indeed to that effect some MPs have vowed to impeach the National Assembly Speaker on grounds that the House leadership conducted itself in a manner that is beneath its status. However well-meaning these MPs may be, it is beside the point because the Bill has already been signed into law and thus change of leadership doesn’t change the facts. Besides, the same MPs will be called by their party sponsors and the matter will fizzle out as is usually the case.

Perhaps what Wanjiku should mull over is whether it is possible for a Parliament to oversight the Executive when its members must first meet the President at State House before going to debate in Parliament. Coupled with the fact that the handshake has completely killed the opposition voice in the House; can the people trust the Legislature to effectively carryout its oversight role?

In the same breath, perhaps the time is ripe for the public to debate on separation of powers to secure Legislature from the Executive. As matters stand, with regard to oversight; the Legislature is a dead horse. We must stop administering useless strategies and do as the wisdom of the sages of the Lakota Sioux people dictates; that is, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

 

 

 

After eight years of promulgating the 2010 Constitution it’s time we looked at what worked and what didn’t; Senate’s a good place to start

Posted by on 17th September 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest blog)

As Kenyans, we all agree that The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is one of the best thing to have ever happened to Kenya. It is only last month that we celebrated the 8th Anniversary of the document. So far, we at least have experienced the best and the worst of the document. The Constitution was part of the ceasefire agreement after the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence (PEV).We hurriedly made and enacted it and promised ourselves that in the fullness of time we shall amend it.

As we approach a decade under the 2010 Constitutional epoch, it is fundamental for us to have a discussion on what has worked for us and what has not. Maturity now demands that we stop pampering every section of the Constitution, be honest with each part and resolve to modify or even scrap some provisions if need be.

The former Senator of Nyandarua Muriuki Karue, once registered his frustrations with the Senate. He was particularly disappointed by Its powerlessness that makes it unable to function. The term ‘Upper House’ referring to Senate we’ve come to realize is just an empty legal glorification. To be honest, since its inception in 2013, the Senate has never flexed its muscles – if it has any – apart from the once in a while mature debates and ventilation on national issues like in the 2014 security laws amendment debate and the controversial 2017 amendment on election laws. Sincerely nothing much can be said of the Senate.

Due to this powerlessness that lies within our Constitution, Senators seem to have surrendered to this fate. It is reported that their committees do not function because of a consistent lack of quorum. Meaning the Senators give little or no importance to their legislative duties. Nevertheless, their lack of interest is “understandable” because there isn’t a single thing they can do without usurping the powers of the National Assembly or the County Assemblies.

Whenever there is superiority battle between the National Assembly and the Senate, the obvious casualty is always the Senate because of its limited powers. For instance, just before the end of the 11th Parliament the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Aden Duale introduced the Parliamentary Service Bill, 2017 which in many ways isolated the Senate in the administration of Parliament. The Bill which was re-introduced in the 12th Parliament had initially torpedoed a Senate bill by former Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi. The bill crystallized Senators’ thoughts on how they wished to see the running of the Parliamentary Service Commission.

For a country like Kenya which is still struggling to meet the basic needs of her citizens, it is foolhardy to have a bloated and expensive political bureaucracy. To make matters worse, some offices are openly ceremonial. If we were to restructure our legislature, the question we ought to ask ourselves is, can the few responsibilities of the Senate be performed by the County Assemblies in collaboration with the National Assembly? The answer here will be a resounding yes.

Assuming we form a committee on devolution issues in the national assembly. Then, let the county assemblies carry out detailed oversight of their respective counties hand-in-hand with the National Assembly. This will strengthen devolution, reduce confusion and save us a lot of money.

Moving forward, we have to be open minded and do what is best for our country. The debate should not be about who will lose a position but what the country will gain. Apart from the senate, there are so many other positions that are not necessary and we need to talk about them soon. Good people, let’s take the bull by the horns.

 

 

Dear MPs, please stop with the crocodile tears, you had enough time to deal with the VAT Act

Posted by on 11th September 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Politicians have a penchant for speaking from both sides of their mouth. And as National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale put it in a recent interview with the local media; our MPs are being hypocritical over their sudden rage over the implementation of the 16% VAT on basic commodities.

To begin with, the Finance Bill, 2013 that was signed into law by President Uhuru in 2013 amended a number of laws relating to various taxes and duties among them being the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act that has been the center of the storm the last few days. Although the VAT on petroleum is attracting more attention, other goods also affected include: fertilizers, textbooks, milk, newspapers among other products.

These amendments that introduced 16% VAT on products that were previously exempted from consumption tax was as a result of the government’s ceding ground to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands. The reason for this demand by IMF was to reduce the fiscal imbalance; that is, the government’s future debt obligations at the time were projected to be different from its future sources of revenue.

Our Members of Parliament rather than scrutinize the Finance Act, 2013 and its implications on the expected implementation of the VAT Act and conclusively debate the matter, chose to suspend its operationalization until 2016. And when the 2016 implementation deadline approached, MPs once again suspended that implementation of the 16% VAT on petroleum products for two years; meaning the Act would come into effect on September 2018.

Consequently, as the 2018 deadline approached, the MPs, once again, through the Finance Bill, 2018 unanimously voted to postpone its implementation for another two years. Only this time, Treasury has gone ahead to implement the Act and hence the sudden outcry. And while we are having MPs shouting themselves hoarse over the Executive’s decision to overlook their recommendations on the matter, it’s not lost on Kenyans that they had sufficient time – 5years to be precise – to deal accordingly with the matter but chose to play party politics instead.

When defending the changes in the VAT Act, the Deputy President, William Ruto indicated that it was necessary for generating revenue for the nation’s development agenda. Indeed since the start of President Uhuru and his Deputy Ruto’s government in 2013, they’ve carried out multi-billion projects that have seen an increased borrowing by the government to satisfy these projects; despite the constant warning by IMF that the continued appetite for borrowing was going to be unmanageable.

Instead of the MPs postponing the implementation of the VAT Act, they should’ve in the interest of the public questioned the government’s appetite for borrowing; the feasibility of the projects the government was undertaking – particularly the return on investment for the tax payers. More importantly, the MPs, as the House that oversights the Executive, should’ve done its due diligence to find out if the tax payer’s money was being prudently managed.

For instance, following the series of corruption scandals that started circa 2014 wouldn’t it have been proper for the MPs to debate whether it was time to stop these continued borrowing until they nipped corruption in the bud? Rather than postponing the implementation of the VAT Act, wouldn’t it have been prudent to amend it to remove the planned increment of taxes on basic commodities in light of the mind-boggling corruption scandals?

Meanwhile, the President has been flying out negotiating deals in billions in a bid to secure loans that will enable him achieve his Big Four Agenda completely oblivious of the rising public debt. Never mind we still can’t account for the billions we’re borrowing – we lose at least a third of our annual budget to corruption annually according to the Auditor General.

If we aren’t losing the borrowed money through vague Eurobonds, we’re losing it in inflated projects like the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) or the Lamu Port South-Sudan, Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor project that’s dogged with controversies every waking day yet gobble up a huge chunk of tax payer’s money. Yet our MPs rather than try and curb the appetite for loans went ahead to amend the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act in 2015, taking away their oversight role and giving Treasury the discretion to raise the maximum ceiling for national debt.

Thankfully, Emgwen MP, Alex Kosgey has indicated a plan to introduce a Bill in Parliament that would reverse this and give back Parliament the powers to control government’s appetite for borrowing through the Public Finance (Amendment) Bill. Although it’s coming a little too late, it’s a step in the right direction. Introduction of such Bills is what we expect of our MPs. Not arguments on TV and public places but debating laws in the interest of their representatives.

The National Assembly leadership, led by Speaker Justin Muturi are currently consulting with the Treasury CS and the Attorney General on the way forward on the VAT Act that Treasury implemented.

In the meantime our elected leaders should take time and think deeply about their role in this country. The public on the other hand should learn from this moment and choose to be more vigilant by taking part in public participation when called upon to give input in laws. More importantly, let us give up the herd mentality during elections where we vote in six-piece. We must now consider carefully if the people we vote represent our interests.

 

As we celebrate the 8th birthday of our constitution, we mustn’t forget how far we’ve come

Posted by on 3rd September 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Derrick Makhandia

(Guest blog)

Eight years ago on 27th August 2010, the current constitution was promulgated after years of strife and struggle. Every objective legal analyst agrees that it was such a huge leap from the largely oppressive document that seemed to have been revised over time to favor the president.

The current constitution elevated the people to hierarchical supremacy, with every other institution deriving its mandate from the people. It also emphasized on the rights of citizens as a fundamental tenet. It has been hailed world over as very progressive and liberal.

We could say it was such a revolutionary act that the civil society and the government made it their aim to have this document everywhere and in every format possible. Unfortunately, a huge population of the young generation did not intrinsically interact with the old constitution. Unlike the old constitution that many only knew was bad but couldn’t cite it; you are likely to find a number of ordinary wananchi today, citing the constitutional provisions of the 2010 constitution with astounding efficacy.

If we’re to really appreciate the 2010 constitution, it’s instructive to know how far we’ve come. Having some form of knowledge of the old constitution can help us in measuring the progress we’ve made so far.

Changes from the first Parliament

While so many Kenyans were excited about the 2010 constitution establishing the Senate to oversee county government and National Assembly overseeing national government; it wasn’t the first time we were having a bicameral parliament. The constitution we inherited in 1963 established two Houses of Parliament (The Senate and the House of Representatives).

There wasn’t much difference between the Parliament at independence and Parliament today, except that the membership has increased considerably. Prior to abolishing the Senate in 1966; effectively ending the bicameral Parliament, we had 41 Senators representing 40 districts and the Nairobi Area and 124 MPs in the National Assembly. And while the law did not bar any woman from vying, no woman was voted into the first parliament. During the elections, a total of 1.8 million votes were cast. In last year’s General Elections, we had more than 10 times that number registered to vote.

Other changes, though less pronounced include the removal of the President and the Attorney General from participating in Parliamentary business. In the old constitution, the two offices were ex-officio members meaning, they could participate in day-to-day activities of Parliament except voting. Another significant change is that Cabinet Secretaries (Ministers) are no longer picked from among the MPs.

Changes that significantly impact on the public

The former Constitution required 3 main qualifications for one to qualify for office: They had to be registered voters; be at least 21 years of age (this has since been dropped to 18 years); be able to speak and read English well enough to take an active part in the proceedings of the parliament (this too has since been scrapped out altogether and replaced with an academic requirement that all MPs must have a graduate degree). For the first time in a while, Kenyans had a chance of having representatives who were worth their salt; at least intellectually.

Consequently, the 2010 constitution gave the public the opportunity to be directly involved in law-making. Public participation was an ideal that was not entirely reflected in the pre-2010 Constitution. Parliament was allowed to conduct its affairs without consultation with the people who were likely to be affected by their decisions. This explains why there were several constitutional amendments from Parliament that did not involve the general public. Laws were made without consultation from the public.

The dissolution of the Senate, as well as other Constitutional amendments illustrate to us one important progress the 2010 Constitution made in reverting power to the people; that Parliament could amend the Constitution at will without consulting or input from the citizens. The current Constitution leaves Parliament with very little room to amend it.

Today, the constitution demands that Parliament conduct public participation on every matter that affects the public, and if it not done, the decision might be rendered a nullity in courts.

For us to fully appreciate, understand, enjoy and celebrate the 2010 Constitution, we must have knowledge of the pain that those before us underwent. Those of us who are young had the privilege of not directly interacting with the former constitution as much as our parents. But we must celebrate it and defend it with the same clamor and vigor our parents fought for it.

Politicians are exploiting religion, tribalism and poverty to frustrate the war on corruption; we need to wise up.

Posted by on 28th August 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

There’s an ongoing debate about whether we need new laws to give all a chance at the Kenyan dream or whether the laws we have are sufficient enough to level the playing field; in which case the blame shifts to those charged with the responsibility of implementing these laws.

Both arguments have pros and cons but on the matter of runaway corruption; those arguing for a new set of laws or a complete overhaul of the system are closer to solving the problem with corruption in Kenya than insisting we implement laws that can’t deal with an evolving society.

The thinking here is that Kenya, as a former British colony, was run as a company rather than a country and all the laws by extension were made to serve the interest of the colonialists and keep the indigenous people submissive. We simply inherited the entire system at independence, substituting the colonialists with the ruling class. This is supposed to explain why the police for instance always appear more, a negative force than a service, or why the politician is such a revered individual yet it doesn’t take any special skills or education to become one.

There have been many attempts by well-meaning Kenyans to change the system and the promulgation of the 2010 constitution 8years ago was the closest thing to overhauling the entire system. And while it was a step in the right direction; we are yet to realize the full benefits of the 2010 constitution. We still have a Kenya of the haves and have-nots and justice still appears elusive for the majority poor.

Consequently, the constitution may have streamlined our laws with the present realities such as having an entire chapter dedicated to integrity or an impressive bill of rights but majority Kenyans are still reeling from the psychological effects of the old constitution. This explains why the laws are unable to sufficiently deal with the corruption culture.

What’s even more disturbing is that although religion is expected to help address ills in society, it continues catering to the government by viewing any form of criticism against the government as rebellion – something synonymous with satan. It doesn’t matter the merits of the argument. Religion therefore becomes more an enabler of corruption in that sense.

Nothing proves that more than an election year. Leading politicians become suddenly religious, moving from one church to another donating huge sums of money that are not commensurate with their public salaries. In turn, the clergy tell their congregants that politician x and y was God’s choice and voting otherwise was going against God’s will. This has also been used to undermine any opportunity to scrutinize further a contentious poll. These religious leaders don’t question the source of the money they’re receiving either.

No wonder, Kenyans (who are 80% Christians) reduce otherwise complex political processes that require a lot of critical thinking to simply good or bad. So the poor masses are comforted by such statements as, at least he donates to church – the other one doesn’t. Who knows what he does with his money?

Outside of religion the other most exploited area of our life is our supposed solid communities. A corrupt politician enriches himself with ill-gotten wealth and when the law catches up with him, he rallies his community to protect him. And this has been overused a lot since this ‘war on corruption begun’. MPs openly express their unhappiness with an individual mentioned in a corruption scandal in the name of ‘their community’ being targeted. Not on the merit or demerit of the case.

But nothing makes a country more corrupt than poverty. Poor people unlike the rich have very limited choices. Often times, they choose between one hard choice against another similarly harder. It’s the reason politicians ended up telling voters last year to take the money but vote for the right person. They also recognize that a hungry man is more likely to think with his stomach.

Poor people end up glorifying those who help them without asking where they’re getting that money. It doesn’t matter it’s their taxes. Meaning it might be in the interest of a corrupt politician to keep his constituents (or regions of the country) in perpetual poverty and make government service inefficient so as to remain their ‘savior’ or in the case of the latter teach them a lesson.

In short, ending corruption requires a complete overhaul of the old system and its corrupt culture. It’s the more reason we must stand up to defend the constitution from those who seek to stall its implementation or want to claw back the gains.

Lastly, and this requires cooperation between the government and the people. The government must ensure it offers proper services and starve this one-man-show politicians who pose as saviors. The public on the other hand need to be more critical and religion doesn’t have to be a drug that numbs us from the truth. Indeed it should set us free to call out these religious leaders being used to perpetuate corruption.

Until then, the fight against corruption will remain an election campaign slogan.

 

 

Are we getting a good return on investment from these Parliamentary Committees?

Posted by on 19th August 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Kenyans are being told to brace themselves for tough times ahead as government plans to implement the 16 per cent value added tax on petroleum products but their representatives in the National Assembly are more interested in getting services similar to the lawmakers in the UK.

Never mind the average Briton does not suffer the same challenges as the average Kenyan that our MPs should consider benchmarking themselves with their UK counterparts; especially on perks and privileges.

It’s something of a wonder really that MPs have always agreed with one another whenever debating issues about their welfare but never seem to agree when it came to issues important to the people they represented.

This week, the lawmakers in the National Assembly unanimously and without any hitches adopted the report by the committee on Members’ Services and Facilities seeking to, among other things increase their car grant, allowances, salaries as well as offer them five-star hotel services.

To nobody’s surprise, when a report on the contraband sugar affecting the entire country and mostly sugar cane farmers was tabled, they had trouble speaking unanimously or at the very least having a sound debate. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi had to invite the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate MPs who were allegedly bribed to shoot down the report.

Kieni MP who was the co-chair of the joint committee that authored the report blamed the House leadership including the Speaker and both leader of majority and minority for leading MPs in shooting down the report. On the other hand, his team that worked on the report was also accused of protecting the sugar barons; hence the shoddy report.

Indeed it is members of this same committee that had been reprimanded by the Speaker after they were seen taking photos and exchanging pleasantries with the billionaire Jaswant Rai whom they were investigating; completely oblivious of the implications.

The probe on the contraband sugar is just one among the many bungled investigations by the National Assembly committees. Sadly, the root of this incompetence has always been corruption and or nepotism.

This is why the application lodged by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) at the Supreme Court ahead of last year’s General Elections remains important. The KNCHR supported by the civil society under the banner National Integrity Alliance (NIA) sought the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion on what was the proper threshold for meeting the qualifications of leadership and integrity following the many inconsistent rulings that have seen candidates deemed to lack integrity vying for public office.

At the end of the day, this is what it comes down to. Do we have leaders of integrity? Throughout the years nothing has shown the lack of integrity among MPs than these House committees. All investigations into scandals that have led to the loss of millions and billions carried out by Parliamentary committees hardly yielded anything worth the return on investment.

The committee members spend millions of tax payer’s money earning allowances and retreating in fancy lodges to write reports that in most cases prove the whole exercise was a waste of time and money.

It is now emerging that the sports committee that went on a benchmarking trip to Russia couldn’t even write a proper report worth the money spent on them in Russia. The local media has established the 37 page-report was entirely plagiarized from different sports websites – word for word, and that only about three pages, including table of contents was original.

The MPs went as far as plagiarizing their “observations”. How low can it get?

Meanwhile, the President is under pressure to freeze projects over lack of money; the public continues to get burdened with taxes but their representatives are not that bothered. Some of them even want blind masseuse to massage them in the gym.

Perhaps it’s time we had a national debate on Parliamentary committees; are they really necessary? How many should they be? And who should form part of these committees? We’d rather have less than five committees working for Kenyans and constitute leaders of integrity than money-minting opportunities for thugs in the name of committees.

President Kenyatta, make the manufacturing agenda a gift to the youth

Posted by on 10th August 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest blog)

Some of us who experienced the presidency of Mwai Kibaki as teenagers will remember him for making university education accessible to us. Today, there are more graduates in Kenya because Kibaki made it his business to expand higher education.

However, as the number of Universities, middle level and technical institutions increased the number of jobless youth increased in a similar proportion. Today, Kenya has the highest number of Jobless youth in East Africa region. Some of my peers whom I graduated with in 2015, have never found any meaningful employment for instance. This is dangerous; selling hope to youth then delivering despair.

The youth of Kenya are increasingly becoming angry and forlorn. As time goes by they are convinced that the system is not designed for them. Nothing buttresses this point like the presidential appointments which always prove that the public service is either a recycler of incompetent individuals, a dustbin of retirees or worst still a tool for the president to exercise patronage and clientelism.

Numbers don’t lie, A National Manpower Survey report released in 2014 revealed that young people between the age of 18-29 consisted only a paltry 25% in the public service.

In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta campaigned on the platform of youthfulness. His message and style gave some of us ‘first time voters’ hope and the possibility of shaking things up. So far, he’s done nothing on this front and risks denting his legacy. As he prioritizes on his four main agendas during his last term, he needs to ponder on what he wants the youth to remember him for.

Manufacturing which is one of the main four agendas of President Kenyatta, can be a silver bullet to the problem of unemployment. All nations which are developed today can credit manufacturing as the major catalyst of development and economic stability.

First, a good starting point is by trying to harmonize the technical institute education with the manufacturing agenda. Technical institutes are well spread in Kenya but their potential is yet to be tapped.

Secondly, if one would travel across Kenya, they can write voluminous reports on hundreds of factories that were neglected and left out to die. To revive these industries, the technical institutes can be structured in such a way that they offer contextual knowledge. If an area is good in coffee farming, we can let technical institutes in that area dwell with coffee, from production to processing the final product. Unfortunately, the coffee, tea, pyrethrum and sisal sector continues to dwindle.

Thirdly, our education system needs to be more in sync with our present realities. Our universities and technical institutes should offer start-up capital to students and incubate their companies and industries. Our government should also offer incentives to leaders of industry that partner with tertiary colleges and universities in the research and development work of their companies.

Kenya has a great potential in agriculture and if the government resolves to reviving industries in this sector it can employ hundreds of thousands. There is no point for Kenya exporting raw materials rather than finished products.

If Kenyatta, makes sure that every county has an industry in what they do best, this will go ahead in balancing the trade imbalance between us and other countries. In future, the standard gauge railway may not be majorly used to transport imports but transport exports –  processed goods from various parts of Kenya.

Even the National Youth Service where public funds dedicated to the youth get lost in ridiculous procurements. The service can be reformed to be in line with the manufacturing agenda. I am not convinced why the National Youth Service should procure cereals, milk, meat and bread. It is the National Youth Service that should have farms and supply these food products. Finally, time is nigh and Kenyatta ought to seriously focus on his legacy.