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February 16, 2019

Recent state appointments disappoint

My brain is tired, too tired to really whip itself up to a fury. I looked at the recent appointments to parastatal and other government positions in Kenya and felt resignation. It was an unexciting combination of political ‘thank yous’, of people who don’t really need another run in public office (and several who simply shouldn’t have another run, ever), with an ethnic bias that must be exasperating to watch.

And a former commissioner of police in charge of the country’s NGO board? Maybe superficially not so important for the economy, but these things filter through – those non-profits that focus on uncomfortable governance issues can expect more problems. They help to create some sort of oversight when you have a vast majority of MPs routinely on the take and an opposition that constantly threatens to disclose details of corruption, but mostly makes noise rather than report crime to the police.

I thought back to the early days of the current administration, to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s promise that he would appoint a technocrat Cabinet, no politicians. A promise that was not kept even in the first round. And even among the so-called technocrats, it took too long to remove people who were not performing, or, worse, overseeing large-scale theft of public resources.

Nothing much came of the round of anti-corruption sackings last year. Nothing much could ever have – it’s impossible to successfully prosecute such a number of people in the promised 60 days, even less so when you have a corrupt judiciary. I’ve seen at least one name crop up in the latest appointments.

I also wondered about the promised parastatal reforms. The task force had been appointed in late 2013. Have we heard anything about this recently? I had a look around and found this, by David Ndii, from May 2015: “Two weeks ago, the President announced a long list of appointments to boards of parastatals – his second controversial list in as many months. The big gripe with the list is the recycling of old politicians and cronyism. The list includes appointments to boards for all the existing parastatals, including those that were to be merged. Economic pundits have seen this as a death knell for the parastatal reform initiative.”

The current administration has a bit more than a year left, so it seems this is all we can expect. This is not the time for daring decisions – this is probably the time to shore up alliances. I’m not expecting any more excitement on staffing decisions and appointments for the remainder of this government.


The writer is an independent country risk analyst.

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