Kenya needs more Magohas

In Summary

• The commitment of Prof George Magoha shows re-civilisation of the public service is possible

• As vice chancellor, Magoha's legacy is memorialised in the University of Nairobi Towers

The Public Service needs an urgent culture change, and a reorientation, to buy into the President's viable 'Single Agenda' — fighting corruption.

There is massive resistance to the cause, but the commitment of one man, Prof George Magoha, shows re-civilisation of the Public Service is possible.

Three weeks after a House Committee vetted the Education CS, neither the press nor critics have picked lessons from his submission. The submission, which has thousands of views and likes on YouTube, contradicts the notions of run-of-the-mill public servants. The lessons affirm history, like facts, is stubborn.


 Facts, as news reporters learn in good graduate schools of journalism, are stoic, stubborn, and sturdy:

      "Facts are simple and facts are straight

       Facts are lazy and facts are late

       Facts all come with points of view

       Facts don't do want I want them to do.

Misquoting former US President John Adams, President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to facts. He said, "Facts are stupid things." You cannot manipulate facts to say what you want. Adams had earlier said, "Facts are stubborn things."

US Senator and scholar Daniel Patrick Moynihan, pays homage to facts: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Facts are like brains, everyone has one. But certain brains in the Public Service need to be re-examined.

The germ in the Public Service is a corrupting notion from the Jomo Kenyatta era of the 1960s that, people eat from where they work. The eating has been bastardised into dehumanising theft, raw and rude.

In 2019, public servants steal from where they work. They have the opportunity, means, and motive to steal. They have been stealing scarce budget allocations from the National Treasury, without bringing any from their networks abroad. Many of them, whose qualification is gullibility, ethnic, and political correctness, don't have such linkages.

In other countries, perpetrators of economic crimes are executed. Here, potential state thieves could manipulate tender for the supply of nooses from China or the Philippines, to execute convicted thieves

In the counties, state thieves steal from the source. Clerks and their supervisors engage in farm-gate theft. They don't collect half the expected local revenue.

Magoha's history in Public Service shows leaders of proportional conscience build institutions. Four instances in the public history of the CS stand out: The Cabinet Secretary left an executive academic job at the University of Lagos, with a salary of about Sh100,000 to settle for Sh6,000, as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi in 1987. Kenya was then looking for local academics from the Diaspora. Magoha responded to the call of home above personal comfort.

As Dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 2000, the professor of urology did not fancy the idea of sitting in a 'pigsty'. He went looking for money among his peers in Korea. He returned with Sh10 million to build the dean's office. But he was told it was insubordination for the dean to have an executive office when the principal was in a pigsty. He went out again to look for more money. He returned with Sh20 million making a net of Sh30 million. He supervised the construction of the dean and the principal's offices, and associated packages, at the Faculty of Medicine.

As Vice Chancellor, Magoha's legacy is memorialised in the University of Nairobi Towers. There was no bank loan or government grant for this legacy project. Prudent financial management did it. 

As VC again, he was the leader of a mission to Canada to compete for money with Canadian university syndicates. His team won, and returned with Sh241 million.

The money funded Level 3 Laboratory at the Kenyatta National Hospital. The facility is dedicated to research in fevers. 

Magoha is a unique public servant, who builds on partnerships to develop public institutions. The CS brings demonstrated integrity and conscience to the Ministry of Education. 

For culture change in the Public Service, there should be high-level arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and acquittals. In other countries, perpetrators of economic crimes are executed. Here, potential state thieves could manipulate tender for the supply of nooses from China or the Philippines, to execute convicted thieves.

School principals, and Jogoo House insiders, who are used to theft, cheating, and shortcuts, better take notice. Something has changed in the ministry that moulds the youth: A role model is the CS. Many more Magohas can be found if the President looks out with a clear conscience.

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