Last week the President gave his second State of the Nation speech. A speech he is constitutionally required to give every year for the term of his Presidency. However if one was expecting this year’s speech to be a marker of the administration’s progress in achieving the goals and promises made in both its manifesto and during last year’s speech they were sorely disappointed. The speech barely made reference to the administrations manifesto, or to promises made by the President in his last speech to the Nation. The President did touch on important issues i.e. devolution, corruption, security, the wage bill, but it was hard to pin point concrete points of action with regards to resolving the issues.
On devolution the President stated:
“My government has kept faith with our people’s momentous choice by establishing a fully-fledged two-tier state: 47 counties that complement the national administration. All are now operational, disproving the doubts of the faint-hearted.”
While the statement is true as regards the establishment of a two tier state, questions remain about how operational the counties are? While a two tier government has been established, several problems still exist, with the two tiers jostling for supremacy and funds including calls by some MPs to scrap the two tier systems.
With regards to corruption the President stated:
“It remains a hard truth that some of our public services are rife with waste and corruption. That waste threatens the productivity we have so painfully begun to build. I have appointed a Cabinet Committee to return us to prudence and probity in public service. The team has already issued a preliminary report, and soon I will give detailed attention to the proposed measures. I also wish to highlight the over-arching theme that government spending must be brought under control.”
Given rampant corruption particularly involving government tenders in which several Ministries have been implicated i.e. the trillion shilling Standard Gauge Railway project, the procurement of laptops scandal, a saga for which the National Assembly has threatened to censure the Cabinet Secretary it is surprising that corruption was only mentioned twice in the President’s speech.
And while it was great that the President recognised corruption is rife in public services, he failed to mention that this corruption extends to the top tiers of government. With regards to the Cabinet Committee, it is difficult to see how there is not a conflict of interest between having a Cabinet Committee comprised of members whose Ministries may be implicated in corruption scandals. The President made no mention of empowering the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), nor was there mention of punitive measures to be taken against those implicated in corruption scandals. Nor did he state how the Cabinet Committee would interact with the EACC, the body actually mandated to investigate corruption.
The President also mentioned the wage bill, though it seemed mostly in passing stating:
“That effort in rationalisation of recurrent expenditure requires attention to our wage bill. It is my wish to encourage public discourse on this matter. Equally importantly, some of our leaders have shown themselves willing to lead by example. My Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries have accepted a 10% pay cut. The Deputy President joined me in taking a 20% pay cut.”
It is possible that the President said very little about the wage bill because he had mentioned the issue on the heels of the Cabinet retreat. However in a discussion on the wage bill it is difficult to see how the President remained silent on the constitutional body mandated to review State Officers salaries and its role in regulating salaries of state officers. It is also awkward that the President would highlight leaders showing themselves willing to lead on the issue of lowering the wage by example when the very same leaders have continually thwarted Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s efforts to regulate the salaries.
Security took up a large portion of the State of the Nation speech. The President mentioned security 13 times during his speech, no surprise given the recent terrorist attack on Westgate, the insecurity in North Eastern Kenya, the insecurity in Western Kenya, the on-going internal conflict in the countries Coastal region, the list is seemingly endless and that before mention of the crime rates, however security goals seemed mostly aspirational than anything else. In his speech the President mentioned that in 2013 violent crime fell by 8% it would be interesting to know from where this statistic comes, is it for the whole country or for a certain part of the country.
What are your thoughts on the President’s State of Nation Speech?