Do we as people and institutions honestly care about integrity?

Posted by on 20th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Awhile back one of the dailies ran a headline to the effect that Kenya was a gambling nation. There was a mixed reaction with strong opponents and proponents regarding the headline. A few days ago SportPesa betting firm unveiled Kenya’s newest millionaire. A 28-year-old who had won the Sh.221million jackpot. Since then previous staunch opponents of betting have reconsidered their earlier stand. But that’s not the shocker. The real shocker is the perennial losers who’ve gambled their future; lost families but refuse to quit and try the old time-tested investment opportunities.

More interesting is how this gambling craze resembles our political life. The just concluded primaries have seen some of the candidates with the most troubling background given a strong vote of confidence by their electorate in their constituencies. It’s not like corruption in this country doesn’t have a face. We know these people; we’ve read the collosal amounts they’ve helped stolen. We know the lives destroyed by corruption. But no, we have to gamble our future to these wanting leaders because better the devil you know right?

A gambler is a person who likes to engage in silly optimism that’s neither here nor there; someone who doesn’t believe in going the long haul-because what’s the point right? He wants instant gratification and hopes his problems can go away with one single win. Gamblers are intense people-they sell prized property and can gamble their children’s fees or their own school fees and justify it. The idea is to find optimism in luck. How pathetic!

Truth is this are the exact characteristic of your average Kenyan voter. It’s funny we complain about how the youth are wasting time and money in activities whose outcomes can’t be guaranteed but consider our voting pattern the past few elections. Otherwise how do you think people elect known thugs; drug lords and tribal chieftains and still afford to sleep soundly at night? Like the gambler who keeps repeating his mistakes hoping for luck we bring back these corrupt people in the name of tribe, better thief, devil you know-so on and so forth simply because we are afraid to roll our sleeves look at these candidates keenly against the qualities of a leader as espoused in Chapter Six of the Constitution. People who don’t take time to think through activities and make sober choices, end up gambling their future.

The 2010 Constitution is probably the best thing that should have ever happened to Kenyan political history. The insatiable appetite for corruption by elected leaders since the first government dimmed the country’s development light so much that there was no light at the end of any tunnel until the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010. Until then we had no way of stopping people with questionable character from taking office.

Sadly, it’s not just the electorate that appears to like gambling their future. Institutions that are supposed to defend the country too appear to be more interested in short term approaches rather than long term sustainable means. Disturbingly, whenever cases around integrity are before court there seems to be a pattern where the interpretation is based on the letter only and not the spirit of the constitution. Mitigating short term political crises that only serve the interest of a corrupt group and leaving the majority disappointed.

A report on leadership and Integrity: Towards Hazy Horizons; Implementation of Chapter Six of the 2010 Constitution by a joint initiative of Parliamentary Initiative Network (PIN) gives a background on the impetus that led to the creation of Chapter Six. The report explains that State officers are the nerve Centre of the Republic and carry the highest level of responsibility in the management of state affairs and, therefore, their conduct should be beyond reproach. Further elaborating unequivocally that those whose conduct does not bring honor, public confidence and integrity have no place in the management of public affairs. Indeed this was the spirit of Chapter Six of the constitution. Which by-the-way is the only new Chapter in the entire Constitution; the rest of the Chapters have been tweaked from the old Constitution.

This week Members of Parliament have asked that the NYS report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) be implemented. This is a good move, but it shouldn’t be focused only on one individual like they’re making it to be. Former CS Waiguru was not the only one adversely mentioned. Other elected leaders mentioned in the NYS saga must also be targeted for fairness sake. For now the ball is in the vetting institution’s court. We can only hope they will respect the Spirit of the Constitution and allow Kenyans a chance to pick leaders of integrity.

Private Sector or the Government; Who is Running the Show?

Posted by on 13th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

With less than three months to the August polls everything looks as though we had no idea elections will be taking place this year. It’s not just IEBC that’s struggling to meet the tight election laws deadlines; National Assembly’s is stuck with the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2017 in the second reading. This Bill among other things proposes to deal with political party nomination challenges which is already a done deal. IEBC should be receiving party list of nominated candidates on Sunday 14th May. Meaning though on the order paper this Bill if signed into law will be useful five years from now.

Meanwhile as the National Assembly resumes business after the Party Primaries, the country faces a serious food crisis and MPs have to figure out a way. The President’s Labor Day speech was dotted with shouts of Unga! Unga! from an agitated crowd unable to bear the weight of the increasingly high cost of living. Among the raft of measures expected is lowering of the subsidies to allow for easy importation of food stuff like maize; possibly sugar too.

Unfortunately this school of thinking takes a short-term approach and rewards those in the private sector with deep connections to high ranking government officials. Actually the Kenya Trade and Remedies Bill, 2017 also in the second reading is keen on protecting domestic industries from unfair competition from foreign companies. This Bill that hopes to set up an investigative body-The Kenya Trades Agency “to determine the existence of dumping and subsidization of imported products” is likely to be in jeopardy. The real crisis is that even in the face of real problems there are people in government who are still thinking of cashing on the crisis.

To begin with the government released the strategic food reserve without monitoring the exercise properly. One of the guests on KTN’s round table hosted by Asha Mwilu revealed that  a lot of that maize found its way to Arusha. The reserve having been depleted the government resorted to waive duty to allow the private sector import maize free. Again, this approach only serves those individuals in the private sector with the means.

Never mind that this is happening at a time when the Ministry of Health has been embroiled in a scandal that has seen the Global Fund Auditors pitch camp at Afya House to probe the alleged corruption after USAID freezed their funding. The Ministry had flouted procurement by irregularly awarding tenders to private sector individuals close to the government in what later was known as the AfyaGate scandal. Nobody  has been jailed yet and now a few people are about to make a lot of money from this food crisis.

And still on the high cost of living, the 11th Parliament’s life ends in June 15th to pave way for the General Elections and slightly over 15 Bills haven’t even gone past the second reading. The Finance Bill, 2017 has already got tongues wagging. The Bill proposes to raise the Withholding Tax on Management and professional services and on royalties If the Bill becomes law, the changes take effect on 1st of January 2018.

The government’s decision to increase the Tax bands by 10% thereby cushioning the low income employee may temporarily offer reprieve but this is simply a knee-jerk reaction and in a sense shifts the burden to the middle income earners whose challenges are not as far off as those of the low income earners. If anything, majority Kenyans in the middle income bracket are a salary a way from poverty, should an unexpected disease hit them they’ll be rendered poor.

For every Kenyan earning in excess of KES 42,781 30% of this figure will be deducted as PAYE. Not to mention the burden associated with the sky-rocketing cost of living hasn’t been dealt with. The long term solution is to bring together the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) and  millers to identify the weaknesses in the chain. Meanwhile the lack of political will to streamline the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) only adds to the woes.

The confusion in government and indeed Parliament in resolving the challenges Kenyans are facing can be seen in the Bills that are currently being rushed to the floor of the House. On the one hand is the Kenya Trade and Remedies Bill, 2017 discussed earlier. On the other hand, is the Nairobi International Finance Center Bill which is feared might kill local firms as foreign companies that are in good standing with the cabinet secretary could be exempted from paying taxes unduly. Besides the  Bill undermines other laws around transparency and accountability as it shall over-ride all related laws. .

Admittedly some of the challenges we are experiencing with cost of living are as a result of natural calamities but the culture of greed that takes advantage of the plight of the majority to whooping sums must be stopped at all cost. Indeed we’re a free market economy but the government should work in public interest and not the private sector.

 

Party Primaries Showcase the Systemic inefficiencies in our Democracy

Posted by on 5th May 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

We can now add the word shambolic to the Kenyan dictionary as a peculiar Kenyan lingo after the just concluded primaries. The parties so called independent tribunals working to solve disputes over nominations have mediated on the issues in a manner that leaves a lot to be desired. From the look of things, the mediation had nothing to do with getting the right candidate but negotiating to have what the party believes is a stronger candidate to take office. Kenyans have witnessed many legitimately nominated candidates surrendering their certificates and pledging support for the party’s favorite.

This form of negotiated democracy is dangerous because it robs the people the ability to have people of their choice. In an interview on Citizen TV with Jeff Koinange, Senator Mike Sonko who clinched Jubilee’s gubernatorial position openly admitted that it was not up to him to pick his running mate but the party. If it boils down to what the party wants then why hold nominations in the first place? Why not just wait to vote in August rather than pretend to allow for democratic space. It’s not just Jubilee, the same is being witnessed in ODM with the tribunal saying the deadline set by IEBC means they have to uphold nominations in contested places like Kisumu.

This nominations also revealed the patriarchy that is our politics. It was surprising to see Kenyans turn up in thousands to elect aspirants for party flag bearer in various positions but only a fraction of the people elected women reps. The contempt for women in politics is encouraged by these party tribunals. Consider the odd case where Elizabeth Ongoro, former ODM aspirant for Ruaraka got a harsh punishment over election violence that involved her supporters and that of incumbent T.J Kajwang’. How the party decided to fine her Sh. 1 million and bar her from competing in the primaries while allowing Kajwang’ to run unopposed was another low for political parties considering women are often the victims in political violence cases.

Jubilee and ODM being the biggest parties in the country the chaos witnessed during the primaries was so palpable.  A woman from Alego Usonga lamented to Mzalendo using our short code SMS 21516 about the disorderly nominations in his constituency. Florence* painfully narrated the gimmicks used by the rich candidates dishing out monies and the political party delaying voting to a point that the women, old and sick couldn’t linger long enough to vote. Her view was Kenyans need a new way to identify leaders to represent us at the ballot because party nominations don’t work.

Indeed in regions where the big parties enjoy loyalty there’s need to strengthen party democracy to give hope to women like the one who communicated to us her frustrations. The better option for women like Florence is to identify those independent candidates they believe have vision and real interest in developing their constituency.

Despite the underwhelming dispute resolution offered by the political parties, these primaries have nonetheless offered a glimpse of hope in areas where the people’s will carried the day. We can draw inspiration from nominations held in Umoja estate, Nairobi where a vegetable vendor clinched the ODM MCA ticket against all odds. The people were able to isolate the noise from richer aspirants and see clearly. If we can replicate these patterns on August 8th we’ll be a step closer to ensuring we give National and County governments a breath of fresh air.

Generally, the political parties’ commitment to Constitutionalism and Rule of Law is wanting. Most flouted the Election laws. They also cleared individuals with questionable characters to carry the party’s flag in different elective positions. We hope the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) among other key vetting institutions will prevent these questionable candidates from being on the ballot. However, the last bullet remains with the electorate who can vote them out otherwise the political order that glorifies thieves will remain firm.

Good Move: Kenyans Red Card Aspirants during Party Nominations

Posted by on 28th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The Swahili have a saying that when foolish men become wise, the wise fall into trouble. In Kenya we can safely admit that the electorate has become wise and our politicians are in trouble. The coming August poll will be a shocker for many pundits and ordinary folks alike if these nominations are anything to go by.

Firstly, the narrative that Kenyans, particularly from Central Kenya were apathetic has been quashed after voters turned up in their thousands to nominate their party representatives. Secondly aspirants close to party owners have been floored. In some counties like Nandi, Kericho and Kiambu nearly all incumbents have been replaced from the governor to the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).

While the primaries have been largely shambolic and chaotic, it is important to note and commend the vigilance demonstrated by the electorate. Voters refused to be deterred or submit to the mind games by those attempting to discourage them from electing the leaders they wanted to represent them.

That key allies of opposition leader Raila Odinga, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto were rejected resoundingly in ODM and Jubilee primaries is a signal of Kenyans increasing democratic maturity. Moreover, that a Luo clinched the Jubilee party ticket in Kiambu – a Jubilee zone – a primarily Kikuyu region, is a statement that Kenyans are seeing beyond the divisive tribal politics we’ve been fed every electioneering year.

Nonetheless, the job is far from over. Surprisingly individuals who previously occupied public office and have been adversely mentioned in corruption cases made a comeback through these nominations. Kenyans need to embrace a new value system, public office is a trust so why nominate or elect corrupt leaders yet expect different results. Isn’t it time, we the electorate supported the work done by frontline vetting institutions like the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)?

Sadly, the courts have in the past made some disturbing rulings on matters relating to integrity which have only served to either dilute or create confusion of the standards set in Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Mzalendo lauds the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR) move to seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court on the application of chapter 6 on all public officers – elected and appointed.

Political party leaders too are failing the democracy test when they attempt to rig in their preferred candidates thereby undermining their members. The disorganized primaries across the country are likely to result in very high number of independent candidates. In the same spirit that has been demonstrated in these nominations we hope the electorate will continue red-carding candidates rigged in by their parties.

Meanwhile, the National Commission and Integration Commission (NCIC) should step up as we draw nearer to the August polls. Politicians are openly engaging in dangerous speech that could destabilize our country. Again, the judiciary is once again at fault having cleared those arraigned in court over hate speech despite overwhelming evidence. It’s time the Chief Justice whipped his team to stand on the right side of history. We can’t have politicians captured on camera inciting people to violence or openly bribing voters only to be acquitted on flimsy grounds. The Judiciary should stand shoulder to shoulder with other key institutions to defend the Constitution in its spirit and letter.

Can the Youth Drive Systemic Change Through This Election?

Posted by on 21st April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

With the party primaries underway, the political tone in the country is just about to hit climax.  Party owners have promised free and fair nominations but we all know potential leaders are likely to lose to party favorites. The simple reason is our political parties are not institutionalized and party founders determine who gets nominated. It’s really business as usual for the political class that are making a killing through this nominations. For the rest of us however, and particularly the youth it can’t be a-business-as-usual nomination or elections for that matter.

Youth should realize there are bigger problems than missing out on the politicians tender to produce t-shirts and run campaign materials. Latest Kenya National Bureau Statistics (KNBS) paints a sad picture of Kenya’s realities. The persistent drought impacted negatively on agriculture so much that ASAL regions have had to rely on food aid. Never mind there are leaders in these regions who are seeking votes again, despite being unable to deal with a cyclic event. They have enough funds to hire youth to set up websites and run social media campaigns but were unable to employ this creativity in making their constituents food secure.

Unemployment is a challenge for every government in the world and sadly it’s usually the youth who are most affected. Kenya’s unemployment rate is reported to be the highest in East Africa. While for every 20 Tanzanians or Ugandans there’s 1 unemployed youth; in Kenya, one in every five youths of working age have no jobs. If you imagine the vices associated with lack of jobs then you will grasp the severity of the matter.

Kenya with its vibrant youth population is missing out on the demographic dividend. The result is an angry emotionally unstable youth who is only too willing to do anything including serve as conduits for violent politicians. The ongoing primaries have been marred by political violence and in all cases it’s staggering the number of youth involved directly or indirectly. The 2007/08 post-election violence reached such scales because of an energetic disillusioned and misguided youth.

Also considering how charged this year’s politics appears to be, there’s a need for this demographic to be sober more than any other time. While launching the Kenya Youth Manifesto, Nerima Wako, the co-founder of Siasa Place reminded the youth present at the launch that there was a need to change the narrative that the youth were only a chaos-churning, careless group and any other tag that makes the youth untrustworthy with political power. The launching of the youth manifesto was a statement that the youth wanted a revolution; an intelligent revolution.

Sadly, research by NCIC revealed that youth with college level education were more tribal than the high school drop outs. Is our education and training system preparing our youth to contribute to our nationhood and democracy? No wonder, youth have their priorities mixed up and consequently challenges like unemployment remain unattended.

Despite the launch of a manifesto by a coalition of youth groups in mid-April, youth are generally disengaged from political parties and can’t influence decisions at that level. A report by the Center for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD-Kenya) published in 2015 revealed how disengaged youth are from political parties. The report shows that despite the youth being the majority in the country “their representation in formal institutions of the state and government is minimal. Their participation in political parties is also minimal.” Youth need to be empowered to “play a greater role than just being used as voting machines”.

In 2011 in a parliamentary debate about political parties, Devolution CS, Mwangi Kiunjuri said “most political parties have many supporters but few members.” Youth argue online by their hundreds but are nowhere when parties are discussing key issues about the country that inform parliamentary work and indirectly their lives.

It was therefore exciting to see the youth in Busia make their case to the media having found their names missing in the list of those voting in the ODM nominations. That’s the kind of involvement that will guarantee the right candidate is nominated. However, the youth in these regional zones should be careful not to nominate politicians based on tribe but rather their policies or plan towards the youth.

The Youth manifesto is a good starting point as it consolidates their opinions and youth leaders can use it engage politicians using factual information. And while we’re talking about intelligent revolution there’s a need to also understand that leadership that gives attention to the youth does not necessarily mean a youthful candidate. Youth must therefore identify individuals with an actual plan to solve their problems and rally around such a candidate, otherwise youth marginalization is a song we shall continue singing for a very long time. What do you think?

 

Kenyans Red Card Aspirants Who Fall Short of Chapter Six of the Constitution

Posted by on 15th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

It appears, from the look of things, Kenyans seem to have accepted that politics is only for the dishonest that’s why our debates during electioneering years are simplified to focus on the better thief. The standards Kenyans use to rank our political leaders are so criminally low that it appears ethics don’t inform our choice of leaders. We accuse our political class of being more focused on numbers than ideology, but we are no better. Kenyan voters often dismiss political aspirants of high integrity and competence because they don’t have the numbers. Ironically, we are the ones who determine who gets the numbers anyway.

Article 1 of the Constitution gives power to Kenyans and every public office holder working under it wields delegated authority from the people. It is with this view in mind that four Kenyan Civil Society Organisations – Society for International Development, Transparency International Kenya (TI-Kenya), Inuka Trust and Mzalendo Trust – have launched the “Red Card” Campaign. Like in football, the four organisations are calling Kenyans to kick out of the political game politicians who don’t meet standards set in Chapter 6 of the Constitution; be they political parties, aspirants, public institutions involved in the process and places of worship that allow politicians to campaign on their premises.

The Chapter on integrity is important because it outlines the responsibilities of public officers and the conduct expected of them. Sadly though, the set ethical standards are ignored across the board. Majority of our leaders show utter disrespect for the people when they seek elective office yet are dishonest in the execution of their duties, in-disciplined and non-committal in service to the people. A good number of our politicians and senior public officers remain unaccountable to the public and have the temerity to come back and seek for votes when they can’t explain how they lost our money.

If Kenyans take the time to check track records of all aspirants based on reports by the Ethical Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Parliament’s Hansard and Committee reports, Auditor General, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya National Examination Council and the Courts among others – they are likely to find enough reasons to red card unsuitable candidates’ right from the primaries. Public Institutions execute their mandate on behalf of Kenyans using the taxes collected so use the information.

In addition, all political parties and aspirants are expected to observe the electoral code of code conduct as set out in the Election laws 2011 and Electoral Offences Act 2016. For example – politicians are prohibited from campaigning in places of worship and burials. To raise the observance of this law, religious leaders and the congregations should act as gatekeepers. In commitment to bring honor and dignity to the offices they hold, political aspirants must be mindful of their behavior not only in religious spaces but also during their public rallies. Religious leaders therefore must Red Card politicians campaigning in church by shutting them down. By accepting donations from corrupt public officials, the church’s credibility as an institution that should champion for integrity has hurt.

Furthermore, public commitment to chapter 6 ethical standards would check the utter disregard of the same by our public servants. Despite President Uhuru in his 2015 State of the Nation Address directing the Inspector General to enforce the chapter 6 requirements without fear or favor hardly anyone has been brought to book. Only some senior civil servants resigned. In fact, double speak is evident as politicians continue to serve despite the allegations of corruption and the former senior civil servants are on the campaign trail seeking public office. Consequently, the public must see themselves as the defenders of the Constitution and the public purse against aspirants with dubious pasts. Voters can exercise their Red Card through their party primaries or on voting day.

The Constitution spells it out clearly that state officers should promote public confidence in the integrity of their offices. Yet, even the aspirants across different parties now seem to question the integrity of their National Elections Boards (NEB) after claims of richer candidates getting favoritism that has seen many politicians defect ahead of the primaries. These NEB actions are in direct violation of the guiding principles of leadership and integrity which includes objectivity and impartiality in decision making; ensuring decision are not influenced by nepotism, favoritism or other improper motives. It’s indeed for such reasons that the public must be heavily involved in these primaries to safe guard the integrity process. This is another opportunity to red-card various political party branches all over the country.

Indeed, the quality of the political leaders is a direct reflection of the electorate. We can’t complain about corrupt leaders when we accept money from leaders without questioning the source or how they plan to recoup it. Voters must give candidates whose integrity is in doubt a Red Card and remind them who is boss right from these primaries to the August polls.

 

Meaningful Public Participation is Key to Effective Legislation

Posted by on 8th April 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 1 gives the Institution of Parliament the powers to exercise the sovereignty of the people as the people’s representatives. As the guardian of the people’s interests, the legislators are also expected to involve the people in their deliberations in line with Article 118 be it in legislation or other processes.

With only four months to the August polls the political campaigns are nearly reaching climax. Our lawmakers are spending more time on the road looking for votes than in Parliament. The Budget was read about ten days ago to an audience of about 100 legislators out of the total of 416. We hope the legislators will take time off their schedule to scrutinize the proposed allocations. If only they consistently took time to constantly engage their constituents on matters before them including legislation, but truth is they don’t.

Since independence, it has not been easy for the ordinary mwananchi to inform any Bills before Parliament for that matter. Parliament remains an exclusive institution where citizens have few opportunities to air their views despite the constitutional expectation that the house would create structures for participation. Apart from the Live Parliament proceedings, Kenyans rarely interact with an institution that is supposed to represent them.

First, the lack of participation in law-making is partly because the information is not readily accessible to majority Kenyans, since Parliament uses very limited channels of communications. Secondly, the window given to citizens to submit their views is very short – on average the notice to submit their views via memoranda gives them a period of six days to respond, if any.  This limits the number of people who participate and in a sense makes participation in the legislative process exclusive to a few people and organisations.

Thankfully this April, Mzalendo has launched Dokeza – Bill Annotation platform to help mitigate some of these challenges – if not all. Mzalendo hopes the Dokeza – Swahili for ‘share an idea’ – platform will enable Kenyans online to access bills that are under public participation and give their views on bills. Through the platform, Mzalendo hopes to assist Parliament to diversify participation in law making to include as more voices and views.

The process of engagement on any bill will entail four steps facilitated by Mzalendo:

  1. i) Digitization of bills making them accessible to anyone online. This will be provided alongside the a copy of the gazetted edition;
  2. ii) Expert commentary on the bills in layman’s language to make sure all Kenyans visiting the site are able to read and understand without having to deal with the legal jargon.

iii) People registered on the platform will be able to give their views on any part of the bills and share them with others via social media. Their views will also be visible to others commenting interested in a given bill.

iv). Lastly, the Mzalendo team and its partners will collate all views submitted, then prepare a memoranda and share it with Parliament in the required format.

 

All those interested in participating in law-making on the platform will have to register on Dokeza either through their current Facebook, Twitter and Google log-ins. The platform allows for three types of participants – the general public, institutions or MPs. Each registered user will indicate their current location and their county of interest. Dokeza’s rallying message is “Shaping Kenya, one bill at a time.” Through the platform, Mzalendo seeks to demystify law-making and spot-light this particular role of MPs.

Kenyans offline and in rural areas without internet access have not been left out. They can interact with us via the short code 21516 and an sms costs just a bob. Mzalendo will use bulk sms to send out questions regarding open calls for memoranda posted on dokeza. Sentiments received via our short-code will be moderated and posted on the portal too.

Already there are Bills that have kicked up storm like The National Integration and Cohesion (Amendment) Bill 2017 that wants to tighten noose on hate mongers or Senator Mutahi Kagwe’s Bill that wants Nairobi recognized as a National Capital and not a county. Besides there are other laws that reek of mischief like The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) Bill, introduced by Leader of Majority Aden Duale. In Dokeza we are hoping both the civil society and the public in general can come together on the platform and give their views and help our law makers not only have the public’s view but debate from a point of information. Look out for these Bills once Parliament gives the green light for participation.

In the meantime, we should all remember that paying taxes is not the only engagement we can have with the government. We have a right to be involved in any policy or law the government comes up with because it affects us. Our MPs are at the moment distracted by elections and are not paying keen attention to Bills before the House. It’s therefore up to us to utilize the Dokeza platform to ensure what is debated in the House this last month to the polls has our interest at heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017/18 Budget was pro-Mwananchi, therefore tracking its implementation is essential

Posted by on 31st March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The KSh. 2.6 trillion budgets read this week was fashioned around the majority poor, women and youth. The President was being smart considering the State of the Nation Address did not have the intended effect, after Kenyans questioned how the economy could be growing amidst hunger and humanitarian aid. This year’s budget seeks to appease the demography that tilts the scales in elections.

The budget that was read 3months early for the sake of the August Polls focused on food security issues allocating Sh.4.1 billion to provide cheap fertilizers to farmers and making sure farmers are insured by allocating another Sh. 700 million for that purpose. Farmers especially in Central Kenya have not been particularly happy with the Jubilee administration who felt they’ve suffered under this administration. The Miraa international ban incensed Meru farmers despite government previously allocating Sh. 1billion to cushion farmers, it appeared counter-productive.

The other challenge that farmers have faced despite the government’s good will is a proper implementation plan and widespread corruption. At the beginning of the Jubilee administration in 2013 the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was embroiled in a court battle by a company-Erad General Suppliers and Contractors, which lawyer Katwa Kigen then blamed for the woes the NCPB was facing. But problems with this important body have refused to go away. Last year (2016) the government had to suspend 22 managers of NCPB over theft and adulteration of government-subsidized fertilizers. Until NCPB is thoroughly streamlined the government will continue losing money and farmers remain frustrated despite the budgetary allocations.

Kenyans who brave the long lines and scorching sun to vote have barely tasted pizza or lasagna. The closest they’ve come to these middle-class foods is French friez-prepared Jua kali-style also known as chipo mwitu. As such they heavily rely on maize flour, bread and wheat-especially for those making chapattis to sell in the slums. And the government got it right when it decided to exempt ordinary maize, wheat flour and bread from taxes. That’s the only way these group can see their lives change, it doesn’t matter what the country’s GDP reads – Mwananchi cannot eat GDP. If the common man can’t have his ugali or sell his chapati then the rest doesn’t matter-everything is deemed bad.

Also increasing the sin tax on expensive spirits up from Sh.150 to Sh.200 per liter is smart. These mostly affect the group that finds queuing to vote bothersome. It has less risks in terms of delivering votes for the incumbent.

The government is also likely to get the attention of majority youth who work informal jobs with low incomes after exempting those earning below Sh. 13500 monthly from the paying taxes. Indeed the poor breathe a sigh of relief after the budget announced parents will not have to pay the exam fees for Standard Eight and Form Four candidates. However, there’s need to follow up on the quality of education. Despite allocating Sh. 4 billion for free primary education and another Sh. 33 billion for free secondary education the quality standards have been falling particularly in schools where student teacher ratio is skewed such that a teacher handles more than thrice the recommended number of children.

This eventually affects the quality of pupils graduating to secondary and eventually the quality of students leaving secondary. If free education means poor education then there’s a need to re-look the strategy again for the sake of building a nation that can have a reliable youth for the future not just mere allocation of funds. We must desist from allocating money just for populist reasons and ask whether it makes sense or there’s any return on investment. Having said that allocating Sh. 2.5 billion for the school feeding programme is a good move especially ASAL areas where children are either motivated to go to school in the hope they will eat or avoid school to find food.

However, there’s need for a clear break down of the budget so that Kenyans can follow the money trail and understand exactly how their money is being spent. Again, mere mentioning of amounts allocated without a follow-up of a clear break down amounts to hot air.

Overall this appears to be a good budget; but it also appears to be an election budget. Which makes it even better if Kenyans-majority whom are poor can reap the benefits. The challenge however remains with the realization of the budget promises and the bureaucracy that only makes it possible for a few cartels to make a kill while the intended beneficiaries are left frustrated.

 

The Upcoming Primaries are a Testament We Suffer Integrity Deficit

Posted by on 24th March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Every election year Kenyans are treated to a circus in the name of party primaries where party owners prop up their favorites for nomination and pretend they were democratically elected. This year will be no different and the signs are already there. Members of the party will cry foul play only to rescind and support a process that clearly lacks integrity. The bold ones move to smaller insignificant parties in the hope that the electorate will keep their eyes on the bull’s eye.

When Jubilee launched the technology based voting system at the primaries there was brief sigh of relief. The smart card was indeed as some pundits have argued, a game-changer. It is supposed to kill double voting or ghost voting. The smart card is indeed the future of restoring integrity in primaries as it streamlines the process and allows members to vote only their choice candidate. But as the Anti-Corruption whistleblower John Githongo once said, “You can’t digitize values.” Some things are beyond technology. It’s a culture problem.

Jubilee Party now appears unsure whether to proceed in this direction. The head of the Secretariat Raphael Tuju announced their National Elections Board will make a decision on the way forward. Why the caution when this was the sure way to achieve free and fair elections? Your guess is as good as mine. Corrupt aspirants and members are pressuring the party to abandon the digital smart cards to allow them have their field day as usual. But the party has already spent a lot in the digital cards and is likely to employ the technology in some areas while voting the old way in more controversial zones. This simply means our problem is the culture of impunity and corruption at this level can’t be defeated by technology alone.

This week, the High Court issued a directive allowing politicians to operate within the old law that allows them to defect 45 days before an election as opposed to the current law that changed the time frame to 120 days before elections. While this is indeed bad news for IEBC that needs to publish list of all party members it speaks volumes about the level of trust our politicians have in their own parties. The matter was brought to court by governors who felt the law limited the period for party-hopping.

While IEBC has every reason to make the court change its ruling we must be alive to the challenges that politicians are facing under cartels and greedy politicians who care little about the will of the people except minting money. And sadly this issue cuts across the political divide. NASA for instance hasn’t even decided on the flag bearer but the cracks are there. The four main parties forming NASA can’t agree on how to field candidates for primaries. Majority of the parties want to go it alone for fear of losing to favorites of the party owners.

The way we structure our political primaries only those close to the party powers have a chance. No wonder women get the shorter hand of the stick during party primaries. The patriarchy system in our party politics is so grounded that chaos rocked a women’s only gathering at Bomas a few days ago that was meant to build support among women. Gender PS rocked the boat after bidding support for the incumbent infuriating other women present who saw her as a betrayer. The phrase women are their own enemies couldn’t have been more right.

It’s pointless for politicians and religious leaders to ask IEBC if it is ready to conduct a free and fair election when rigging takes place at the primaries. Bigger parties Jubilee and NASA have strong presence in Rift Valley, Central and Western, Coast and Eastern respectively. If primaries are shambolic then to wait for free and fair elections in August is to insult our intelligence.

If Party leaders in Kenya are serious about free and fair primaries like they’ve been saying they should first work to institutionalize parties. Make them impossible to dismantle. We can’t have new parties every election year formed only with the intention of giving an individual power and dismantling it when it no longer serves such purposes. Institutionalization of political parties will also see women with substance taking center stage in politics not out of favor with party owners but because they believe in the system and it works.

Nonetheless, the main people who can aid in this process and ensure at the very least that the country gets leaders worth its salt are the electorate. But this can be achieved when we take seriously chapter 6 of our constitution on integrity. We must stop getting excited when people throw us money and demand to know where it is coming from or how they intend to recuperate it. Otherwise we shall continue having leaders without integrity who are only too happy to make money through corrupt deals. Your thoughts?

 

State of the Nation Address Tells Voters to Scrutinize Manifestos

Posted by on 18th March 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

This year’s State of the Nation address, was the last as President Kenyatta first term winds up. The President was very calculative highlighting Jubilee’s successes and remaining vague on the failures. But a good score card should also bring out the failures and point out the way forward.

The Jubilee administration began on high tempo having made promises that resonated well with majority youthful Kenyans. Indeed the government has attempted to keep these promises but at a great corruption cost. Every mega Jubilee project benefited a cabal of Kenyansthrough kick-backs thereby inflating project’s original cost. Take The Standard Gauge Railway that was one of the key promises. The President evaded the politics surrounding the cost-benefit of the project especially after key landlocked countries appear to abandon it for Tanzania’s choice route to the Indian Ocean. And the fact that Tanzania’s SGR is four times longer than Kenya’s and still cost-effective.

President Kenyatta avoided mentioning the doctor’s strike that paralyzed the public for over 100 days and the Afya House scandal that was unearthed last November. Instead the President belabored the benefits of equipment in hospitals and the advantage NHIF has brought to the people. At the very least the President could’ve told us how he intended to make sure a doctor’s strike never happens again.

Moreover, the State of the Nation address evaded talking about the insecurity in the country and particularly North Rift where bandits are killing people and rendering them poor in the name of cattle rustling. Instead the President lashed out at unnamed politicians from these regions who are inciting the public. There was no mention of the exact plan or way forward; only that the government will use all means at its disposal to bring to justice the perpetrators.

President Uhuru proudly announced that under his administration the ratio of police to the population is 1 officer for 380 Kenyans which is indeed better considering the UN ratio is 1 officer for 450 citizens. The challenge with this however is the lack of impact. It’s actually funny that crime rate doesn’t reflect the ratio that admittedly supersedes UN’s standards. Cattle rustling remains a menace which means the government should re-think its training. Is six months enough to trust someone with a gun?

An opinion poll by Ipsos in June last year revealed the crime rate in Nairobi was almost twice the National average. The same poll revealed that majority crime victims do not report the crime and 40% arguing the police are inefficient in resolving crime. This can be confirmed by the grand corruption that has seen nobody significant charged in court.The Police ratio means nothing if the police have little value for human life and driven by corruption.

It has not escaped Kenyans, the corruption that has accompanied the realization of Jubilee’s mega projects. Perhaps learning from these, Kenyans should demand that this government and any other that promises mega projects must also show the most cost-effective way of achieving that project as well as the cost-benefits and stick with it failure to which there should be repercussions.

Nonetheless, we must give the devil his dues. Being the first government under devolution, Jubilee administration has performed impressively in ensuring devolution succeeds. Most of the teething problems and existing challenges are not so much the Executive’s making but the legislators as we opined in our last blog. This goes to confirm that all a government needs is political will to act and that’s what is missing in other key sectors.

Indeed the President has also supported the implementation of the new Constitution although the 11th Parliament failed terribly in its independence from the executive often acting as a rubber stamp rather than an oversight arm of the government. The attempt to change, or revise  laws to suit party interests as was the case with the legislation on election laws where CORD and Jubilee battled it out along party lines rather than in the interest of the public is a point in case.

If the 2017 State of the Nation highlighted anything, it is that the electorate needs to be keener when leaders are making promises this year. The public must also be more thorough in verifying the information and the ability to implement projects politicians promise. Regardless of the party, evaluate if their promises make sense. Is it deliverable and a priority to you?