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January 17, 2019

Public officers lack integrity

KNH incoming CEO Lily Koros./FILE
KNH incoming CEO Lily Koros./FILE

Service in public office comes with obligations, expectations and demands. These are legal, societal and contractual norms. One is expected to bring honour, dignity, respect, integrity and good reputation into the public office they occupy. It does not matter if one is a state officer or a public officer. Bottom line is that they hold public office.

Employed public officers must conduct themselves in a professional, ethical, moral, accountable and transparent manner as per Article 232 of the Constitution, whether working for the national or county government.

Does Kenya's public service live up to this expectation? Do members of the public get a fair return on their taxes, which pay these public office holders? And if not, what would be the remedy?

Kenya aspires under Vision 2030 to achieve a middle level economy with a higher per capita income in an industrialised economy. This can be attained where resources, strategic plans, leaderships and all necessary support fundamentals (social, economic and political pillars) pull in tandem and are in sync. Moral integrity and accountability for all stakeholders cannot be divorced from this process. While we appreciate the steps so far achieved under Vision 2030 and the implementation of the Constitution, a lot remains to be done.

Research informs us that cultural orientation dictates and influences a lot the behaviour, response and approach of an individual to matters of public interest. Aspects of national values such as exercising decency, honesty and patriotism need to be evident and demonstrated in our service in public office.

The latest happenings at Kenyatta National Hospital serve as an example to the foregoing. Kenyans have asked the CEO to explain, respond to queries and give a report on the alleged rape of new mothers in Kenya's biggest hospital. Her response has been denial, and an explanation about short distance and that no reports have been made by the victims or any security officers to her.

This reflects a don’t-care attitude. That she is right and the complainants are wrong! In other countries where public service is taken seriously, Lily Koros would have resigned. Even worse, she is a woman who feels no remorse for fellow women going through such harrowing experiences under her watch.

The same thread of denial of responsibility and public accountability was displayed by NTSA director general Francis Meja over the rising road carnage and inability to restore sanity and safety on our roads. It took the President's public order to remove them from the roads and back to their core business of policy and strategic advice to government on transport and road safety.

A very bad habit of taking offence whenever a public office holder is asked to be accountable is slowly creeping in. The public, who are supposed to be served, are treated as a nuisance or irritants. They become victims of failure by these office holders.

Lawmakers are respectable, they are expected to conduct themselves with decorum, and use persuasion and negotiations to win over opponents. But Murang'a MCAs and many others have not reflected this, going by their public fights. Kenyans are looking at the EACC to effect the provisions of Chapter Six on Leadership and Integrity

Some MPs have been dewhipped by Jubilee Party following wrangles and disagreements over parliamentary committee leadership. Political party is the sponsor of an elected and nominated MP, MCA and senator. The lawmakers have to follow its directions, policies and visions and vote accordingly at all times, parliamentary independence notwithstanding.

There is need for Kenyans to work on the national culture, psyche and responses to ensure public office holders are accountable, responsive, professional and have integrity and honour. Strong institutions, better observation and adherence to national values and fidelity to the law, as well as patriotism are collective strategies that will ensure Kenya continues on its progressive growth and development.

Devolution, governance and policy expert

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