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Ward Bill Upsets Separation of Powers by Side-lining County Assemblies

Posted by on 20th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

Five years later after the debut of the Senate, thanks to Kenya’s constitution 2010, the role of the Senate in the Legislative arm of the government seems not to have crystallized. The upper house has persistently been struggling to find it space and relevance, sometimes to the extent of creating friction with other institutions.

In the 11th Parliament, the debate on whether Kenya needed a Senate arose. Irungu Kang’ata, the current senator of Murang’a, had vowed to introduced a bill that would abolish the Senate, because in his opinion the house was useless and didn’t have a role in law making. Mr. Kang’ata thought that National Assembly and the County Assemblies could sufficiently legislate on counties, guard and strengthen devolution.

Fast forward to 2018,  Senator Kang’ata seats in the House he termed useless and the jovial guy has started on a high note; drafting a bill on ward fund. The bill whose central objective is to decentralise resources has good intentions but upsets separation of powers by side-lining county assemblies and making the Senate poke its nose on county issues that can be dealt with by the county assemblies.

Certainly, our Senate struggles because the legal architecture makes it weak. When the drafters of the constitution inserted the Senate in our constitution, they gave it minimum roles, and this where the problem emanates. Article 96 on the role of the Senate is so brief, and the only pure and substantive role assigned to the Senate is highlighted on Article 96 (3) & (4). That is to determine the allocation of money to the county governments and the resolution to remove the President and the Deputy President. Any other thing they set themselves to do, must be done with caution to avoid usurping roles of other institutions.

Back to this county wards development & equalisation fund bill, 2018; despite the lofty title, the bill is a replica of the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) Act, 2015. In some sections, the bill tries to dictate how county assemblies run their business. The drafter of the bill eclipses county assemblies and puts the senate to run some county assembly business.

For instance section 12 (1) & (2) of the bill gives the Senate powers to consider the audit reports of the fund. Why is this so, while county assembles can consider audit reports of their respective counties and act on them accordingly? Critics may be tempted to think that the Senate is trying to add more roles on their job descriptions. Sadly, as they usurp they are weakening county assemblies.

To date, instead of counties finding ways to strengthen county assemblies by building capacity of its members, for instance those in the Public Accounts Committee.  Senators are still fighting to summon governors to Nairobi for grilling on audit queries. Why decentralise with one hand and try to recentralise power using the other hand?

If you go to section 46 (1) of the bill, the Senate through the drafter of the bill, dictates to the county assemblies on their standing orders. The bill gives an order to members of the county assembly on how many members should be in the select committee on the County Wards Development & Equalisation Committees.

I think this is too much micromanaging. It is in standing orders where assemblies should be given liberty to formulate their rules according to their situation. The bill should not dictate to county assemblies how many members should be in a committee or even what committees they should have. County assemblies are wise enough to know how to manage themselves.

When the constitution created the position of an MCA it created it with a purpose, and since this sounds like a bill that has been drafted on behalf of them, I think it will be incumbent that the MCAs be given an opportunity to ratify it in their respective counties.

Senator Kang’ata proposes an old model of decentralisation but may be some counties could be having a newer model of decentralising resources. Kenyans have had problems with NGCDF and the same problems ought not to be replicated at the ward level.

How to Stand out as a Woman MP; a Few Lessons from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Posted by on 16th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

“When the public opinion decides it wants to hate a woman, it’s always much, much worse than when they decide to hate a man,” remarked Canadian diplomat Gary Bedell on a BBC interview while talking about his friendship with Winnie Mandela.

That statement couldn’t be truer in Kenya than it is anywhere else in the world. Especially if the said woman is in politics. To paint a quick picture; this is a country where majority male politicians mentioned in scandals where Kenyans have lost billions of money are given podiums in church and celebrated even by newspaper columnists as ‘shrewd business men’ or dismissed by critics as ‘someone building a war-chest’ for the next elections or any other word that can be ignored casually.

Yet a woman with similar allegations of public theft can’t dare appear on a women’s magazine. Never mind the matter was not competently concluded by a male dominated Parliamentary Committee. It’s like we’re saying: “How dare she, a woman, steal money that only male politicians are entitled to steal?”

Don’t get it twisted, this blog doesn’t in anyway advocate for sanitization of people who steal money in the name of being women. However, we need to go ballistic when the media attempts to sanitize known, notorious thieves who steal our public funds with impunity regardless of gender.

The Canadian diplomat was right in the end and it’s the reason most women who were elected to Parliament had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. It’s therefore befitting that the Kenyan women MPs take time and study the late political icon, Winnie Mandela’s political life. Here are a few tips.

Now that we’ve established that Kenya, like South Africa and indeed the rest of the world is a man’s world, as a woman MP you must make cognizant of this fact and develop a thick skin. For starters, refuse to be drawn into controversial debates. Winnie Mandela made the fight for the people in Soweto bigger and the media eventually had to gravitate more to her political work than personal.

Those MPs being linked to the conman who had a ‘special relationship’ with them would do well to learn from this and realize commenting on this is pointless and only serves to undermine your position. Let the law take its course. Focus on your promises to your constituents. Repeat the stuff you’re doing for your people at every opportunity and hope that that’s what people will dwell on.

Secondly, understand that though Kenyan politics is deeply patriarchal, it does not mean you become a man. Attempting to be a man in mannerism, talk and character will only serve to spoil your brand and make it difficult to reconcile who you are with what you’re about. S. Africa’s mother of the nation fought fiercely against apartheid without attempting to be Mandela. Her voice, her convictions and her constituency remained clear to death.

Another important thing tied to gender is the need to take your position as the care givers of this country to your advantage. Nearly every family in Kenya owe it to the wife, mother or sister for much of its success in the simplest of things that make their daily lives bearable and functional. Avoid therefore the temptation to appear too fixated on what women lobby groups and sections of the civil society tell you is ‘sexy’ for women to champion.

Winnie Mandela was clear about the economic emancipation of black S. Africans and refused to be drawn in useless debates of specific pro-women only issues and it’s the reason she earned the title mother of the nation and not mother of women.

Having said that, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with drafting laws targeting critical issues about women, especially discriminatory practices. A beginning point on this matter should be the two-thirds gender rule. If you’re not making enough noise about this, then as an MP you have no moral authority to lecture anybody on women issues. Whether in NASA or Jubilee if the will is there, as a woman MP you can make enough problems for those in authority to live up to the spirit and letter of the constitution.

Another very important trait of the late Madikizela that our women MPs could borrow is that beyond her obvious drive she was knowledgeable and mingled and lived among her people in Soweto. Women MPs often appear aloof and distracted except for a few. You must change this. Inform yourself about your constituents’ needs; interact with the poor in your constituency, hold town hall meetings often to gauge the type of people you’re representing.

Additionally, utilize the media. Too many political talk shows are male dominated and the reasons sometimes is not the media but women MPs who refuse these offers because they conflict with their personal family lives. As a political leader, you must reconcile with the fact that you’re married to two groups of people, your nuclear family and the people who elected you. If you fail in your communication to either, you will suffer, therefore one must learn to balance home and political affairs.

Lastly, but not least, Winnie Madikizela was never afraid to speak truth to power. Not her ex-husband Mandela or the popular party ANC kept her from speaking her truth and telling off party leaders that were no longer truthful to their course. This quality is more important now that both Jubilee and NASA MPs appear to be rubberstamps for the party leadership. Our women MPs should like Winnie speak against party control and allow for healthy debate to thrive even if it means expulsion from the party, because in the end, just like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s light shone bright, yours too will shine when we remember you chose to stand on the right side of history.

 

 

 

 

MPs should join hands with Environment ministry to crack down senior government officers abetting illegal logging

Posted by on 10th April 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Our first Nobel laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai once said that we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. That shift in thinking needs to begin with those charged with the duty of making our laws, if we’re to protect our life-support system.

Over 3 million Kenyans faced starvation last year as a result of a prolonged drought which greatly messed up with normal food production in the country. The pinch was felt in the economy as government struggled to subsidize the cost of food prices.

Perhaps we need to take time and study why we’re never able to deal with cyclic events like drought more than 50years after independence. Thankfully the rains came early in the year but like the drought, the floods also caught us flat footed and at the same time exposed how poorly designed our roads are but I digress.

According to Action Against Hunger statistics, an estimated one in every four children in Kenya suffers from stunted growth from chronic under nutrition. Not to mention that a great part of this country is semi-Arid and Arid meaning if we continue with our illegal cutting down of trees, Kenya, in a few years will become a desert. This is not hyperbole.

Our forest cover is diminishing at an alarming rate and it’s sad to see the people tasked with protecting the environment are the ones destroying it. A task force commissioned by the Environment CS, Keriako Tobiko to look into the forest management and investigate the logging menace found that corruption encouraged by the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) staff was the main reason behind the depletion of the forest cover. Prior to this report the new Environment CS had fired at least 10 KFS staff in connection to the illegal cutting down of trees.

Unfortunately, some MPs were raising hell over Environment CS Tobiko’s decision to fire these staff at the KFS. The MPs in the Environment Committee  were quick to blame the CS over intimidating and harassing the KFS staff only for them to change tune later demanding an overhaul of the entire board after it became clear they (KFS staff) were indeed corrupt. This does not reflect well on the legislators. They must be on the fore front on this war and by no means appear opportunistic only acting out of what looks like fear of public out-lash.

And as the MPs in the Environment committee give the CS that much needed support, we expect their counter-part in the National Administration and Security Committee get answers from the Ministry of Interior over the outright breaking of the law by the police who are supposed to nub the offenders.

Reports are rife in the local media of senior police officers misusing their public positions to order ferrying of charcoal and timber using police tracks that bypass the usual inspections. That officers who should nub the illegal goods are transporting the same are signs of a broken society and shows just how deep the rot goes. The timber/charcoal business is booming so much that nearly all police units are complicit; from traffic to anti-stock theft unit.

As the body that oversights Executive and helps in government accountability, Parliament must flex its muscles now and help bring to end the illegal cutting down of trees that’s making prolonged droughts a common occurrence and thereby creating other problems in the agricultural sector. It’s also Parliament that should reign in on contractors designing and building houses and structures that do not consider environmental concerns.

Meanwhile as citizens we must be mindful of our environment lest Mother Nature shows us the worst yet. We should perform citizen arrests where possible but avoid extreme measures like torching vehicles found transporting charcoal. Meanwhile, the Parliament as the custodian of the people’s interest should propose and enact a tree-planting day where all Kenyans are tasked to plant at least one tree per household. This could go a long way in helping restore the forest cover.

 

Bill to Amend NHIF Act Timely

Posted by on 4th April 2018

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Health is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda. As part of his legacy the President appears keen on making healthcare affordable for all Kenyans. Pundits nonetheless are divided over the meaning of affordable but for purposes of this blog we’re interpreting it to mean ability to get quality healthcare without diminishing one’s savings.

However that legacy is likely to stall so long as people who matter in the country are not using public hospitals and therefore remain unconcerned. That is why the request for a Bill to amend the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Act by Kwale Woman Rep Zulekha Hassan is very important.

With the increase in lifestyle diseases health has become even more expensive. It’s no longer strange to see people seeking this or that help to offset a medical bill that’s too big for the family to sustain. And in most cases they have to travel abroad because our hospitals are either not well equipped or don’t have the specialists for complex procedures.

It’s as though the health sector is collapsing on its own weight. Evidence of negligence with catastrophic results have plagued the biggest referral hospital in the country. Unfortunately the poor don’t have the luxury to fly abroad for treatment or seek private healthcare; they must contend with the poor standards. On the other hand, our legislators who can and should ask difficult questions are unable to because they have insurance cover that saves them the agony, paid for by the taxpayers.

In fact only last week the Star newspaper reported that at least 13 Members of Parliament are in India for specialized treatment.

The four Senators and nine MPs who sought treatment abroad are lucky they are not worried about affordability when it comes to health issues. Meanwhile, every day in Nairobi, let alone the whole country, there’s someone fundraising for Cancer or some other fatal disease. For them it is the emotional trauma close family members go through but for the rest of majority poor, there’s the emotional distress and the poverty the disease brings with it as people deplete their savings.

As long as public officials have a cover that keeps them from Public hospitals and at the expense of the tax payer, the health cartels sabotaging public health will continue thriving.

It is therefore a welcome thought that Hon. Zulekha Hassan is requesting the amendment of the NHIF Act to introduce a mandatory requirement that all public officers be entitled to the payment of benefits for medical expenses only in public hospitals. This will mean if MPs are to attend private hospital, it will not be at the expense of the taxpayers.

If that Bill sees the light of day there will be increased funding as Hon. Zulekha. Contribution from all public officers means more staff and better equipment as a result of the increase in funding. Needless to mention that MPs will be more vigilant and crack the whip on individuals or groups of people hell-bent on sabotaging the public hospitals for their own private practice.

Affordable Healthcare is a legacy the President can only realize if he has the entire Members of Parliament behind him to help deal with laws that are an obstacle or drafting of new ones that can make it a success.

If the President is truly serious about transforming the state of public health in the country he should as a sign of good faith support this request by the Kwale County Women Rep and convince MPs from Jubilee to make the amendment. Without proper motivation from the lawmaking body, there’s very little the Executive can do by itself to achieve affordable healthcare.

This is a Bill Kenyans from all walks of life should rally behind and push it through. Also, once tabled we must remain vigilant and participate when it comes to public hearing and ensure it is not watered down like most good Bills are done. It’s time we took interest in public participation especially on such crucial laws.

Is Parliament a House of Cards?

Posted by on 28th March 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Kenya is a country of great paradox. People who run down this country and steal billions of taxpayer’s money and store them in offshore accounts are accorded VIP treatment whether they’re coming or leaving the country. On the other hand, a man whose only mistake is to be extremely loud, annoying and unafraid to speak truth to power is treated in an undignified manner and threatened with deportation.

Parliament has summoned high public officers, ‘cartels’ and nearly everybody named or connected to a scandal; grilled them for hours, retreated in some posh lodge, wrote a report and made recommendations, yet we have never really recovered money lost through these scandals. In short Parliamentary committees are not strong enough to scare anyone.

No wonder the police act with impunity, for example chasing a university student and shooting him at point blank like they did the Meru University student leader. We’ve seen police brutality targeted mostly at those living in informal dwellings with no top dollar lawyers to make their case. They just don’t care because at the end of the day, they’ll give some funny story in a Parliamentary meeting or ignore the summons all the same and nothing will happen in the end. It’s really sad.

Parliament as the institution that make laws in this country should not be comfortable with the complete disregard of the law from anyone, not even the highest office in the land. More importantly, Parliament is the voice of the people and when the Constitution refers to, “We, the people” it places that burden squarely on the August House as the elected leaders of the people.

A properly functioning Parliament therefore can’t and must not carry on with the House Business when there is blatant disregard for the rule of law. Indeed, MPs ought to understand that their oath of office does not limit them to the making of laws only but overseeing its implementation and addressing challenges resulting from inability to implement any such laws.

Since taking oath of office we’ve seen an increased shrinking of media space so much so that at least seven Columnists resigned from Nation Media Group’s (NMG) Daily Nation to protest lack of editorial independence. Since the new MPs took oath of office we’ve seen the continuation of the crackdown on the Civil Society Organizations and the unashamed attempt by government to shut any form of criticism.

All this has happened but our MPs are not outraged enough to act. In fact the only time the MPs appeared worked up on the floor of the house was when a member mentioned how a con-man was stealing from MPs and another sending nude photos. Needless to mention millions of Kenyans get bombarded with annoying messages from inmates believed to be from Kamiti Maximum Prison and yet ignore because those responsible can do nothing about it.

While we commend the committee led by Senator Moi for summoning the Cabinet Secretary for ICT on the same, his lack of cooperation and unyielding nature tells a lot about whether the Executive thinks much of Legislators or not. Nonetheless, we expect them to also move with speed and challenge the Interior CS for the attack on journalists who went to cover opposition Activist, Miguna Miguna at JKIA and let us know if it is now illegal to be informed or to practice journalism.

The Access to information Act;  gives citizens the right to access information under Article 35 of the Constitution. It therefore follows that a well-grounded Parliament should be in uproar together with the people it represents demanding to know under what circumstances the government denied the people such access.

It’s a high time our Members of Parliament made it clear whether they represent Wanjiku and are willing to stand by her and be damned or their benefactors. In a country where institutions that are supposed to protect the weak appear to be at the service of those in power; one expects that Parliament as the House that represents Wanjiku and the weak by that virtue will take its rightful place as the voice of the people.

In the meantime, where should Kenyans who are terrorized by their own government run to? The danger with overreaching one’s power-not just the government is that one is always tempted to do it again because of the feeling of invincibility. Failing to hold the government accountable over its crimes, perceived or otherwise only emboldens the resolve of a rogue government.

Considering the allegations and admission by the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica’s top executives of their meddling in the Kenyan elections, both in 2013 and 2017, one can see how anything left unchallenged makes individuals willing to try it again; but at what expense?

Either we have a strong Parliament that is not just about making laws but protecting those laws as well or we will end up a banana republic. We either have a strong House we can count on to be speak truth to power and oversight effectively the Executive or we have a House of Cards that tumbles down when the wind of impunity, nepotism and extra-judicial or other social ills blows its way. Which House do we have?

Uhuru, Raila handshake good for stability but MPs should remain on course

Posted by on 19th March 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

The statement, there are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests finally sunk in for majority Kenyans after President Uhuru stood on the steps of his Harambee office side-by-side with his political nemesis and promised a new Kenya.

That leaders can work together regardless of whichever corner of the country they come from is a blessing and indeed worth encouraging. In fact part of the reason this country has little to show despite going to the polls every so often is the seemingly permanent campaign mood that keeps us busy but taking us nowhere.

The President and the former Prime Minister both said, their interest was Kenya and none of them or rather no leader was bigger than Kenya. Whether this interest was Kenyan or of two people; only Parliament can help us figure. And this can only be done if Parliament resolves to work as a representative of the people and not the Executive.

While we are happy the constant bickering and grandstanding that was affecting the economy and all Kenyans by extension is over and that opposition MPs will stop absconding Parliamentary business and give us proper return on the taxes we are investing in the form of their salaries; we however must remain vigilant and demand that beyond attending House business, MPs will not close ranks to the point that they become useless to the public.

Already ODM faction of NASA has wasted no time to close ranks with their Jubilee counterparts. The mood in Parliament right now is merry, considering Jubilee had majority seats already and with ODM wing of NASA also commanding the biggest number in opposition, there’s nothing that can stand on their way at the moment. Both sides are now trumpeting President Uhuru’s big four agenda; a little too confidently that one fears ODM has been co-opted in a manner that might keep them from performing their oversight role.

As Raila Odinga noted in their joint statement with the President that day, this country is deeply divided along tribal lines. And though Raila Odinga mentioned, rightly that the focus on institutional reforms did not yield the desired results among others hence the need to change tact, it is important to note that these problems cited are very much entrenched within Parliament.

Take for instance that strange case where a good number of MPs threatened to remove from office the Health Cabinet Secretary for suspending, rightly, the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) CEO. The MPs feel obliged to ‘protect one of their own’ needless to mention anybody under investigation has to step-aside as part of government procedure.

These MPs didn’t care that someone who did not deserve to be operated on was operated on. They don’t care that women are complaining they’re being raped or the many problems bedeviling an institution that majority Kenyans use. Rather than trying to get to the root of the problem; they choose to ‘protect their own’ instead of letting justice take its course.

Sadly, it’s something that’s becoming fashionable for MPs to come to the defense of the CEO of a government parastatal without thinking much about how weighty some of these issues are. Only a few days ago, another group of MPs have also given similar threats to Environment CS over the suspension of staff at the Kenya Forest Services.

Again as noted in that joint press statement, the institutions in these country are yet to deliver. We have it would appear, institutions that were hurriedly formed to serve purposes for which either they are not equipped enough to handle or were merely constituted for purposes of subterfuge, subterfuge here is to create an impression of progress with no intent for the same. The people being hoodwinked in this case are the donors who insists on such things as zero tolerance to corruption.

If we’re to use the joint statement by the President and the opposition chief as the yard-stick upon which we’re to judge this country going forward it is imperative then that we make even more demands on Parliament seeing as it is the body charged with making laws and by extension responsible for the faulty institutions that have not lived up to their expectations and indeed the toxic politics that nearly tore the country apart over secession talks.

The President and his opposition counter-part said, they are keen to ensure Kenya does not disintegrate on their watch-loosely translated to mean both are keen on their legacies. This is a personal matter for both of them. Our MPs should also ask themselves, what legacy they are planning to leave behind as it is not a guarantee that one will be MP again in 2022.

Thankfully we have MPs like Mohamed Ali, the former KTN Journalist who pricked the conscience of Parliament by explaining how the challenges of the common man were different from that of MPs. It was a refreshing site to behold and frankly quite uplifting.

We need peace and stability to function in this country and for that we commend President Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga; however, we also need to see the end of electoral injustice in this country. We want to see the end of police brutality in this country. We want a Kenya where public officials step aside when caught up in scandals until they’re cleared and not marshalling MPs from their areas for defense. We want to see a Kenya where the Auditor General gives reports of misappropriation of funds and people go to jail. All these can happen if MPs take up their rightful position.

Food insecurity in Kenya is self-inflicted

Posted by on 13th March 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

In the recent past there have been cries of a looming famine across the country. Food shortage in Kenya isn’t something new because over the years thousands of Kenyans have lost their lives due to hunger. Millions others don’t get enough food with children suffering malnutrition. It is a sad situation for Kenya.

Don’t get it twisted, Kenya has the capacity to feed her people sufficiently, only that the authorities are not interested. There is no regime that has ever made an attempt to exploit Kenya’s potential in Agriculture for food security in its entirety. The talk on food security has been shallow and cosmetic. There has never been a sustained initiative on agrarian reforms.

Take for instance the food security bill that has been introduced in the senate by the leader of Majority, it is a bill that is full of grandiose but essentially empty. It creates dubious authorities that are meant to distribute food but pays little attention on how to produce food. Policy makers in this country have an illusion that creation of authorities and some posh positions will one day solve the problems that face us every day.

The Bill doesn’t tell us how we can improve on our land use policy by taking advantage of the available arable land and reclaiming more land for our food sustainability. Land use in Kenya has been without plan. Take for instance, the quick disappearance of arable land in Kiambu County where real estate business is flourishing to the detriment of agriculture. In future, Kiambu which is in the fertile Mt. Kenya may depend from other counties to feed herself. It is incumbent for the government to develop a futuristic policy on how land ought to be used in Kenya.

The Food Security Bill takes an easy route of setting systems on how food should be distributed. Even then, its distribution policy is mediocre. Mediocre because it doesn’t propose silos for the tons and tons of food that rot in farms because it cannot be stored or reach the market in good time. It isn’t strange to hear that farmers in Kisii or Nyandarua are throwing food away while Kenyans in Baringo, Tana River and Marsabit are dying of hunger.

There are countries which aren’t endowed with favourable conditions like Kenya, but they feed their people and even import to other countries. President Kenyatta has promised Kenyans of his commitment to food security but if the Bill in the Senate is anything to go by, then he has started on a wrong footing.  We can’t also forget the not so good stories about Galana-Kulalu.

In the 2017/2018 budget a better part of it was directed to Agriculture. Did we get the return on investment? This is still the million dollar question. Various irrigation projects were funded which include Bura and Mwea. In future, it will be important for Kenyans to be told what has been harvested in each government funded irrigation project.

And like we have always observed, the problem facing Kenya isn’t always lack of money but mismanagement of available funds. As the country struggles to be food sufficient, Kenyans ought to get interested in the amount of money that has been channeled to Agriculture, the number of projects that government is planning to initiate and management of those projects.

The plea to Parliament, especially to the Committee on Agriculture and the Public Accounts Committee, is to take serious their oversight role by ensuring that funds have been managed properly. Bungling agriculture is condemning Kenya to irredeemable hunger, therefore lets be vigilant with the sector.

Why are Kenyans Comfortable With Mediocrity?

Posted by on 6th March 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

Kenyans deserve better, from our healthcare, education and infrastructure. This is the feeling that one gets whenever they go to a public facility to be served. Every year, public funds are channeled to improve service delivery and the lives of Kenyans, but it seems the more funds are allocated, the more public services deteriorate. Increasingly, public facilities are becoming a perfect representation of mediocrity and this has forced more Kenyans to prefer private facilities which they can ill afford.

For example, let us focus on the healthcare sector.

It is only last week that we heard that a surgery was conducted on the wrong patient in the largest public referral hospital in Kenya. The ills in Kenyatta hospital that are highlighted daily are just a tip of the iceberg. Kenyatta hospital personifies the collapsed healthcare in Kenya. Getting sick in Kenya is synonymous to a death warrant.

Our healthcare is on its deathbed, if not collapsed; countless problems from a disgruntled human resource to the dilapidated physical facilities can explain this assertion.  Across the country, Kenyans complain about the poor services that they get in public hospitals. For instance, nowadays it isn’t guaranteed that our mothers will deliver safely in public hospitals. Kenyans have resulted to airing their grievances on social media, because we even lack feedback systems where patients can channel their complaints or even compliments. Public hospitals have turned into some sort of organized anarchy.

On a Facebook page, by the name “United States of Kiambu”, a woman narrates an alleged ordeal in Kiambu Level 5 hospital when her sister was giving birth. The woman goes ahead to allege that four babies lost their lives from Friday evening to Saturday morning last week, due to negligence.

In this particular hospital, there has been a litany of allegations of misconduct, it is even alleged that staff in this hospital go the extent of asking for bribes to treat patients. To be served well isn’t guaranteed. Yet we are still talking of universal healthcare while we cannot offer basics. It won’t be a surprise if this situation is replicated in most of the public hospitals across the country. Most of these problems continue unnoticed because people who make are responsible for these hospitals do not use them. Public hospitals are left to the poor in the society and it seems that it is well if they suffer.

Our constitution, on the bill of rights – article 43(1) (a) accords all Kenyans the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care. Why then should Kenyans get only mediocre service yet their taxes pay for better services? In the last budget, healthcare services got an allocation of 60.9 billion, more money than in the previous budget, but did the situation in the sector get better?

Good health is wealth; there is a correlation between good health and wealth. Healthy people are definitely more productive. Kenyans waste too much time and resources when their loved ones get sick. Nowadays, it is normal to have Kenyans migrating from Kenya to other countries especially India to seek world class medical care. We don’t trust our facilities and neither do we trust our doctors.

As the government promises Kenyans of a universal healthcare, it is incumbent if they do an audit of where we are at the moment and identify the gaps in our system. Kenyans does not need facilities alone but also a workforce that is ready to serve. There is also a need of making sure that all Kenyans employed or not have a stable medical cover. In the meantime, Kenyans should point out mediocrity by demanding for better health facilities and services. In counties, Kenyans can petition their county governments through their Members of County Assembly. At the National level, this can be demanded through Parliament.

 

Of slaves of debt, wastage and extravagance

Posted by on 26th February 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

By Gitungo Wamere

(Guest Blog)

Last week’s news was awash of a ballooning public debt and risk of our economy being burdened, if Kenya continued with her bad habit of over borrowing. In the last five years since the rise of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya has had unprecedented level of debt. The debt increase has been caused by the widening budget deficit.

To all concerned citizens, this debt elicits questions. Is our government too ambitious or wasteful? To be prudent is to bite what you can chew, but, is the government putting a heavy burden on Kenyans shoulders? So far, critics of Jubilee government are seated pretty waiting for the public debt to suffocate Kenya’s economy since the government is not taking advice or warnings.

In the history of states, there is no single state that has never relied on debt. Even the strongest of world economies borrow, but, there is a difference between our borrowing and that of other states. We borrow too much money but never see or feel the impact of the loans. Kenyans from far and wide are asking how these loans are spent. Do we borrow to ‘eat’ or invest? Do we have a return on investment so far?

Our Public Finance Management systems ought to be made tighter. Do we have a public debt management office?  It is this office that should be informing Kenyans how much money is borrowed and how it has been invested.

Do you remember the long and sometimes incoherent stories about the Eurobond? Money was borrowed and none can point the projects that were financed by the Eurobond loan. It is a question that shall be asked many years to come. Was the money used on infrastructure or recurrent expenditure? If it was used on recurrent expenditure was that a wise thing for the government to do?

There is a predictable obsession with the Eurobond loans by African governments which fear accountability. One salient thing is that, this type of loan doesn’t come with conditions and therefore governments can use the funds acquired in any way that they deem fit. Could Kenya be sharing the same story? Is that the reason as to why the 2014 Eurobond cannot be ‘accounted’ for, shilling by shilling?

To save Kenya from the huge public debt, the country needs to embrace strategies to enable government to make money locally and carry out a number of austerity measures.

To date Kenya has an imbalanced trade with other countries, we import more than we export. For instance in 2017 we imported goods worth 17.1 billion dollars and only exported goods worth 5.72 billion dollars. This whopping deficit is worrying. We buy a lot and sell too little.

How does the government ensure that in years to come we become an economy that sells more to other countries more than we buy from them? President Kenyatta has said that he wants to revamp our manufacturing sector. This is a good idea and we can only hope that his government moves with speed to implement it.

It is still not understandable why in this age and time Kenya exports raw materials only to buy a finished product later, expensively. In activating our manufacturing sector, President Kenyatta should start by making sure that we export less and less of our raw materials. If it is coffee, let’s process it here and sell the finished product to the foreign market.

Another problem with our budget is that it has too many leakages. More often than not public funds are outrightly wasted or looted without shame. It is tormenting to learn that a third of Kenya’s budget is lost through corruption. Isn’t it insane to steal from a budget that has to be supplemented from borrowing? Isn’t this a crime in the same class with genocide?

Finally, to meet its financial obligations without burdening the country with debt, the government should resolve to be frugal and strict on public funds management. To do this, strengthening the office of the auditor general and that of the comptroller of budget comes in handy. The executive should not have a strained relationship with these two offices but work together to make sure that all the leakages in the usage of public finance are sealed.

 

 

Parliament’s adoption of the vetting committee recommendations signals end of their oversight role

Posted by on 19th February 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

If there’s a time Kenyans need to take public participation in parliamentary business seriously, that time is now. The recent vetting of the nine nominees and the subsequent adoption of recommendations by the same is an indication that the 12th Parliament is officially a rubberstamp for the Executive.

One only needs to consider the tone of President Uhuru when talking to Jubilee MPs during a recent Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting at State House Nairobi to realize the challenge we’re facing with the 12th Parliament.

The President’s demand that the Jubilee MPs toe the party line a few days before Parliament was due to debate the report by the vetting committee was a sign they were to adopt the report as presented.  This was a committee that was obviously doing the bidding of the executive considering how they dealt with the two-thirds gender question that activists and lobby groups brought up. They limited the law only to the nine nominees with full knowledge that indeed the cabinet was composed of 22 CSs.

While Parliament has suffered transparency challenges throughout our short independent history, the 12th Parliament is unique in this challenge because of the politics NASA has adopted that’s denying the House a much needed critical voice.

Jubilee MPs spent a great deal of time on the campaign trail promoting Jubilee agenda and the re-election of President Uhuru and his deputy so much so that, it would be unjustifiable to expect the same MPs to now attempt to offer any objective debate on the floor of the House regarding the Jubilee agenda for the country.

Opposition MPs therefore counter the sycophancy displayed by those in the ruling party and are able to help the House check the Executive powers accordingly. And that has been possible the past few years until now. NASA’s decision to abscond duty in the name of ‘illegitimate authority’ is giving Jubilee MPs a field day and they are enjoying every bit of it.

This is why NASA MPs must now ask themselves what value they are offering their constituents in deciding to abscond Parliamentary sessions but continue to draw salaries nonetheless. The Jubilee MPs are doing exactly what is expected of them; in fact seeing as majority of the MPs supported President Uhuru, we can reason their constituents are satisfied with the recommendations as adopted. What about those Kenyans who disagreed? Who speaks for them in Parliament?

While we are alive to the fact that Parliament could still approved the names because of the ‘tyranny of numbers’ Jubilee commands; the voice of the few would’ve been heard and perhaps even some Jubilee MPs would have been persuaded to reject some of the nominees. Basically, the minority voice counts and can drive the agenda if the MPs bring solid arguments.

The lack of a critical voice in key matters affecting the direction of this country is a sign we are now on our own and must find ways of getting more involved now that NASA MPs appear unsure which issues are important to the public.

The civil society must remain vigilant and ensure the power of the State remains checked and must not tire to raise concerns about abuse of power by the government. The civil society must continue pushing for good governance and reforms.

In the meantime Kenyans must pay keen attention to Parliamentary proceedings; take note of bills before Parliament and think about submitting your contributions because as long as NASA MPs cherry-pick issues they think are important, we can no longer rely on them for effective representation. We are now the oversight, the main line of defense.