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February 18, 2019

Are The Right People Running Our Institutions?

Turkana Pokot border separated by Turkwell river, in Greater Kerio valley, West
Turkana Pokot border separated by Turkwell river, in Greater Kerio valley, West

A tale of two Kenyas was told by the headlines carried by two of the country’s dailies on Thursday.

One showed a despondent woman with an abandoned look in her eye in the accursed Turkana/Pokot border region after marauding raiders butchered over 100 men, women and children in that area on Wednesday night.

The headline spoke of the night of grief for the victims.

The other daily spoke of the comedy that is the police vetting process where officer after officer has bumbled and fumbled to explain their riches to the vetting body.

You could be excused for comparing the two headlines for appropriateness but actually the two speak to the same issue.

It is precisely because people who have been employed to ensure the security of this nation are busy amassing wealth in cahoots with those who break the law that killings like those in Pokot continue to take place.

The new constitution and the general election of 2013, sought to address among other things, the running of this country.

It is because we acknowledged we have had the wrong people manning our institutions that we have the vetting processes to bring in people who fit the bill.

The comedy that is the ongoing vetting process shows that we should throw out both the baby and the bathwater.

The National Police Service Commission and those jokers who have appeared before it ridiculing us with their tall tales must be sent packing if only because we realise one thing: we have the wrong people manning our institutions.

For it is not clear to me whether the NPSC puts what is happening to the nation security-wise in perspective when its members share laughs with people who can’t explain their fat bank accounts any more than they can wish away their bellies.

Policemen are not MCAs elected on five year terms, they are career servicemen with memories. How an attack like Wednesday’s which left over 100 dead continues to happen in an area where police have dealt with similar incidents before without showing an inkling of institutional memory or experience learnt from prior episodes is beyond comprehension.

We have the wrong people manning our institutions.

It is not just the police.

After the first batch of losers in the 2013 general elections were dispatched to foreign capitals as envoys shortly after the elections, the second batch of election losers is, as we speak, rolling up its sleeves to tackle the hard work of reforming our parastatals; or so the rhetoric goes.

From James Omingo Magara to Kalembe Ndile, Sunkuli to Kiunjuri, Musikari Kombo and even Marsden Madoka, these are the people it is hoped will apply zeal and unmatched fervour to transform our parastatals into the world class institutions, their mission statements proclaim.

The general election was meant to be a mass vetting process of members of the previous parliament, perhaps the most hated parliament in Kenya’s history, not least because of its insatiable greed for public resources and misuse of the law to avoid paying taxes to continued blackmailing of the exchequer to meet its demands.

Many of the recently appointed losers were in that parliament.

It has been recognised in the past that parastatals have been misused by appointing authorities to divert funds into personal coffers or election campaigns.

Which is why the Abdikadir Commission proposed far reaching changes to reform and to consolidate many of these parastatals.

Such consolidation now no longer looks tenable after each of those bodies that were to be merged were given board members.

One must take their hat off to one Dr Romano Kiome, former PS Agriculture, for single-mindedly pushing through ministerial bills to ensure agricultural parastatals were merged. Hence, today we have Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation instead of the former Kenya Agriculture Research Institute.

This kind of steely resolve is required when addressing issues of governance of our parastatals and other institutions.

It is the kind of steel that former President Bill Clinton showed in firing his first Chief of Staff Mack McLarty, a personal friend from his home state of Arkansas and a big campaign donor of his.

He realised the post was being manned by the wrong person.

It is the kind of steel President Bush showed in firing his Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

He realised the post was being manned by the wrong person.

It is the kind of steel President Uhuru Kenyatta needs to show when making appointments.

Many of these ex-MPs do not add value, in fact they deduct value from the institutions they are to oversee.

Very likely within no time as has happened with the clumsily handled police vetting process, people will begin to realise that once again we have the wrong people manning our institutions.

And when that happens, people will demand change, and if they don’t get it, they will look to the very top and ask:

Do we have the wrong people running our country? By then it may be 2017.

Mbugua is a communications consultant and comments on topical issues.

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