The missing link in management of public affairs in Kenya

Ideally, Kenyans should be able to take the President to task over mismanagement.

Prof Kembo Sure

There have been interesting but very dishonest statements intended to glorify President Uhuru Kenyatta by dissociating him or his person from what is going on in the Jubilee government. Some people, including those in NASA, have tried to make us believe that Uhuru is a good man, a good president surrounded by bad guys. Some have even gone further and identified William Ruto as the source of all evil in the UhuRuto government. To the latter claim, I think, the jubilee government has correctly seen the hand of their enemies trying to create division in the inner sanctum of the Jubilee regime. The truth is that the two are joined at hip – as the President once put it, aptly so.

One such adulatory statement I find interesting came from one Bishop David Oginde of Christ is the Answer Ministries (The Standard on December 03, 2017). He believed that Kenyatta was not going into political leadership because of wealth or name because he already had both, and that because he was young he had a “more progressive worldview that would free him from the clutches of the past”. And so the bishop concluded, “Kenyatta was the most strategic leader Kenya had ever had, not for building rail and road but for tackling the twin ailment of corruption and negative ethnicity”.

The good man of the cloth, after realizing that Uhuru Kenyatta did not fit the bill, turned around to blame everyone else but Uhuru, avoiding altogether to mention the obvious failure of the president to deal with the social and political problems he (Oginde) had thought he could deal with.

Oginde said, “…to be sure, a society that celebrates thieves and tolerates evil is a society that has lost its moral foundation. Likewise, a government that pussy-footed in dealing with corruption is a government inadvertently committed to destroying the future of its people.”

In sociology, philosophy and linguistics, there is the notion ‘agent’ or ‘agency’, which is to do with identification of who does what to whom in an utterance. You realise that the strong statements such as “… society that celebrates thieves and tolerates evil; a government that inadvertently committed to destroying the future of its people” are not attributed to any “personal agent”; they are attributed to “society” and “government” and not even the presidency. Using this perspective, Uhuru Kenyatta is clean.

The now popular concept of “accountability” becomes the keyword here, and the simple definition of this term as given by Patrick Morley to Christians might help us. For him, accountability is “To be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people”.

The four crucial aspects of this definition are: answerable, key areas, regularly and qualified people. To be answerable means the President must commit himself to scrutiny or inspection by the citizens through the inspection by the citizens through established agencies such as the Auditor General, Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, National Cohesion and Integration Commission etc. If we take these three agencies, for example, it is clear that the Presidency has, so far, scored very poorly. The reports from the Controller of Budget the Auditor General have been anything but depressing and more so because we have not seen any serious follow-up measures from the government to punish indicted individuals.

The reports of the chair of NCIC have repeatedly pointed that the practices in the counties and the central government offend the constitutional provisions on inclusivity and integration. And opportunities for employment and access to critical public services are still skewed in favour of some regions and communities, to exclusion of others. Similarly the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission has been secretive about its functions and very little filters through to the republic, yet there are numerous cases of corruption reported in the media and against which the public expects action. The presidency is answerable to the electorate when no action is taken against the perpetrators of evil because the buck must stop somewhere. The president is personally answerable to the people of Kenya for failures in any sector of the county and the national government.

The key areas of accountability of government are human rights, security, prosperity, health, education, transport and communication. Each of these sectors impacts on the other and all the other areas spring from and are impacted on by the six. The President has not made sure that Kenyans enjoy full benefits of the investments made in these key areas of our national life. This brings us to the third aspect of accountability, which is regularity.

Why is regularity important?

Apart from all other elements of regularity, in public affairs, predictability is the most important. Citizens always have expectations with regards to when their government should provide service, information or goods. This is also marched with the regularity with which they file their tax returns. The Auditor General gives us his reports on financial management every year, although these are always late by as much as two years. The independent commissions also provide yearly reports, but ministries hardly give anything to qualify as accountability reports to satisfy public expectation, especially regarding the use of public funds. In Ghana, during the regime of President John Kufuor, the executive provided quarterly updates on the performance of the government. The readiness to submit the executive to public inspection is part of being transparent and a demonstration of confidence by the presidency. This also enhances public trust in and respect for their leaders and guarantees stability of the country.

Lastly, the exercise of accountability only makes sense if it is targeted at all qualified audiences. The Auditor General’s reports must be interpreted by those who can make sense of the numbers involved. The EAC and NCIC reports, for example, must not be couched in the legal and political mumbo jumbo that ordinary people do not understand. The notion of “qualified people” refers to people who are expected to provide useful feedback. All Kenyans, the voters, are entitled to a report on their government’s performance in a language they understand. In this respect, we are all qualified people and to include all concerned the reports must be written in both official languages (English and Kiswahili). The tendency has been to write the reports only in English, thereby excluding a large fraction of the population.

A reminder to the good bishop, “…the kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). The old wise words teach us to be honest with our leaders by saying it as it is when we address them. This is not to say we go to the roof tops to denounce our leaders, to shame them and destroy our country. The good book provides that “…if someone is found in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1-2).

As we emphasize that accountability is the missing link that has led this country to run-away corruption and other forms of evil, we must also guard against being self-righteous in the name of being honest gate-keepers of national morality. Lack of accountability certainly leads to impunity as we imperceptibly “… get caught in a web of cutting corners and compromise, self-deceit and wrong thinking, which goes unchallenged by everyone in our lives”. This is mostly true when you are the president of an African country. ^


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