BBI— SAME OLD SONG?

Will BBI suffer the fate of Uhuru's many taskforce reports?

Some BBI proposals are not new and were proposed by other task forces since 2013.

In Summary

• Since coming into power in 2013, Uhuru and his Cabinet Secretaries have formed a large number of task forces to look into various issues affecting Kenyans. seen to affect Kenyans.

• Uhuru and  his Cabinet Secretaries have been at the forefront of defying the Abdikadir team's proposals on parastatals.

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga at the launch of the BBI report on November 27at the Bomas of Kenya.
DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH: Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga at the launch of the BBI report on November 27at the Bomas of Kenya.
Image: DPPS

On Wednesday, November 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Building Bridges Initiative task force report with speeches about the future of Kenya from various leaders.

Among those who spoke on the need to implement the report were ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto — viewed by many as political rivals.

But even as the report was being launched, Kenyans have been aware there are many other task force reports by Uhuru's administration that have remained on paper.

Since coming to power in 2013, Uhuru and his Cabinet Secretaries have formed various task forces to look into various issues affecting Kenyans.

However, not many of these reports have been implemented, dampening optimism about the BBI document.

A look at the report reveals that some of the recommendations are not new and were proposed by other teams.

CORRUPTION TASK FORCE

Key among these are those related to corruption, which were addressed by the Task Force on the Review of the Legal, Policy and Institutional Framework for Fighting Corruption in Kenya.

The report by this task force chaired by former Attorney General Githui Muigai in 2015 proposed to Uhuru that whistle-blowers get 10 per cent of recovered graft proceeds.

In a similar proposal, the BBI team has proposed that whistle-blowers get five per cent of the recovered money.

The Githu team also recommended that "to avoid cases of conflicts of interest, State officers or public officers who hold a majority or controlling shareholding in private companies should not conduct business with those companies, whether directly or indirectly."

Similarly, the BBI report recommends that no public officer should do business with the government, and their spouses should also be barred but can engage in the private sector.

Another report gathering dust is that of the Presidential Taskforce on Parastatal Reforms, which was chaired by then State House constitutional adviser Abdikadir Mohammed.

The BBI report has similarly addressed the issue of parastatals, noting that there is need to streamline them through a renewed focus on core business and cutting down on wastage by enacting the Parastatal Reforms Bill.

Another BBI proposal that is quite similar to the Abdikadir team proposal that parastatals carrying out county functions should be either wound up or restructured.

But Uhuru and his Cabinet Secretaries have been at the forefront of defying the Abdikadir team's proposals on parastatals.

Tellingly, they have also defied Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua's February 2016 circular against appointing state officers to parastatal boards.

COFFEE TASK FORCE

In March 2016, Uhuru set up the Presidential National Task Force on Coffee Sub-Sector Reforms to investigate reasons for continued losses in the industry.

When he received it, the President said that coffee farmers could soon be paid on the spot for berries delivered to factories once the report is implemented.

The report also called for the amendment of several other laws impacting the coffee subsector and also recommended incorporation of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange into a public limited company.

In its report, the BBI says that to kill monopoly in the agriculture sector, it's necessary to "halt restraint of trade in agricultural commodities such as the Coffee Auction."

Other than a waiver of Sh2.4 billion and ongoing rehabilitation of 500 coffee pulping stations, not much progress has been achieved in line with the report.

There have been other task forces related to the agriculture sector, specifically on maize and sugar.

Stakeholders, including farmers from the sugar belt, have been calling on Uhuru to release the sugar task force report, which was co-chaired by Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

The task force had 30 days to give its recommendations on revitalising the ailing sugar sector. It is now over a year since it was formed on November 9, 2018.

Last year, Uhuru also formed a task force on maize co-chaired by Kiunjuri and Uasin Gichu Governor Jackson Mandago. Its report is yet to be made public, even as farmers continue to complain about low earnings.

MIRAA TASK FORCE

In 2016, Uhuru appointed a 14-member Task Force on Development of the Miraa Industry. 

Besides recommending government intervention in the industry, the team was to suggest ways to ensure recovery of lost markets and search for new markets for miraa produce.

In 2017, Uhuru received the report with a key suggestion that the government provides seed capital for farmers to access affordable credit.

The report ran into headwinds after the High Court barred the implementation but this was lifted after an out-of-court settlement by the warring groups.

Earlier this year, the Miraa Report Implementation Technical Team advertised the sinking of 15 boreholes and six earth dams and water pans in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu where the crop is grown.

One of Jubilee's initial task forces was formed in 2013 by then Mining CS Najib Balala to review prospecting and exploration of mining licences and agreements.

In total, 253 licences were probed, out of which only 175 had valid prospecting rights, nine did not, while 69 could not be verified.

According to the report, while the consent of the county council is mandatory, 150 licences had the consent, 24 did not, while 79 could not be verified.

Other than amendments to the Mining Act enacted in 2016,  the country is still trying to reform the industry five years after the task force submitted its report.

In 2017, the Taskforce on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms regarding Intersex Persons in Kenya was formed.

It was not until April this year that its report was released.

In August, a bill seeking to allow intersex persons to get national identity cards with their preferred gender reference was tabled in the Senate.

Most of the other recommendations from the task force such as regulations on correctional surgery for intersex persons remain untouched.

NHIF TASK FORCE

In February this year, Health CS Sicily Kariuki unveiled a team of experts to spearhead radical reforms at the National Hospital Insurance Fund.

In October, the task force recommended that the NHIF should be restructured into a social insurance fund.

The report said it's necessary to actuarially determine premiums and benefit package entitlements to facilitate the sustainability of NHIF. This would also strengthen and improve efficiency towards strategic purchasing through automation and information technology.

The BBI team has proposed that NHIF administrative costs "should be cut down sharply using technology, cutting down on corruption and increasing productivity."

In February 2018, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko named environmentalists to form the Task Force on Forest Management.

The task force said the Kenya Forest Service management and the board should be held to account for the depletion of forest cover.

KFS has new leadership but the country is still struggling to get it right on forest management, with recent evictions from the Mau Forest taking a political turn.

In 2015, the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gazetted a yet another task force of 10 members to offer expert advice on the modalities of facilitating sensitisation, registration and voting by Kenyans in the diaspora.

The task force could not make headway after representatives from the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission quit the team.

As a result, one of its tasks — to ensure millions of Kenyans in the diaspora voted in 2017 — fell flat.

Some of the task forces have, however, had successes such as the merging of institutes handling agricultural research.

In 2014, then Agriculture CS Felix Koskei formed a task force to oversee the merging of research institutions and improvement of service delivery. 

 It led to the creation of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.