CORRUPTION

Tenderpreneurship is the Kenyan dream

In recent years, there seems to be a sudden craze to work with the government for the sole purpose of becoming wealthy

In Summary

• It is not interested in offering value. It is about making money and making it fast.

• That’s why the numerous government-backed projects that have sunk us billions didn’t have a clear return on investment.

It often baffles me how immigrants in the US tend to capture the American dream and thrive in that ethos – in terms of upward social mobility – more than the citizens or natives for that matter. At least that’s how it is presented to the world. Otherwise, complaints by natives about immigrants “taking our jobs” wouldn’t resonate with so many people.

I wasn’t, therefore, surprised to learn that a Kenyan friend of mine who recently relocated to the US after 10 years in South Korea was doing remarkably well in the short period he had moved there. While chatting on social media, I asked him how he was managing this in Trump’s America and he reiterated that golden statement: Determination and hard work pays here! And that really summarises the American dream.

Here in Kenya, I think we can agree we don’t have a national ethos or a set of moral principles we can say guides this nation; if the many economic scandals are anything to go by.

 

However, we can agree that in recent years, there seems to be a sudden craze to work with the government for the sole purpose of becoming wealthy: Some sort of perverted American dream. Only difference is, one needs to figure how to make money – hard work isn’t necessary. If you’re able to figure how to get paid billions for delivering nothing – literally! You become the face of the Kenyan dream. (Read: Ngiritas)

To paint the picture of this perverted Kenyan dream, one only needs to unpack that statement Auditor General Edward Ouko gave to Reuters in 2016, that Kenya was losing a third of its budget every year to corruption. To put that into perspective, the government will have lost Sh1 trillion in 2018-19.

The pattern established has been that anything being rushed or pushed down people’s throat without proper consultations or public participation is often a scandal waiting to happen. I’m therefore not surprised at the opposition the government is facing in the rolling out of Huduma Namba and this Housing Fund.

Tenderpreneurship at its core is not interested in offering value. It is about making money and making it fast. Hence the numerous government projects into which billions have been sunk with no clear return on investment. And this inability by the government to clearly spell out its agenda and objectives in a manner that can help the public see value in these projects is what is creating a lot of mistrust.

Take for instance, Huduma Namba. The government says this will help streamline services and seal gaps that enable corruption. Sounds great but the government’s record is so tainted that people are now saying the Sh6 billion drive is a scandal waiting to happen.

And that cynicism is justified. I mean, consider the manner in which the government is rolling out its controversial Housing Fund and you will see everything that’s wrong with Kenya. It was clear right from the moment the idea was mooted that there were too many questions that remained unanswered. From people who are already servicing mortgages to those owning homes and generally how this fund will be managed; these are legit questions that shouldn’t be glossed over.

The pattern established has been that anything being rushed or pushed down people’s throat without proper consultations or public participation is often a scandal waiting to happen. I’m therefore not surprised at the opposition the government is facing in the rolling out of Huduma Namba and this Housing Fund.

Sadly, the private sector is also taking a cue from the government and flouting the rights guaranteed to communities by the Constitution just to make profits. The proposed Lamu Coal plant is a case in point. The company pushing for this project is aware of Kenya’s strategic positioning as a leader in renewable energy as well as its untapped potential but it’s pushing for a coal power plant that’s not commercially viable.

Supply and demand are basic economic principles. Kenya has an abundance of renewable energy and the world at large is moving away from coal, meaning there’s more demand for renewable energy. Coupled with the fact that it is now way cheaper to generate power through renewable energy, especially because of regulations on carbon pricing and air pollution, isn’t it a wonder then to see any investor put their money in a coal power plant in 2019. Especially when there’s an alternative?

Unless of course offering value for money was never the intention to begin with, which takes me back to tenderpreneurship. I think it’s time Kenyans stopped whistling in amazement at the numerous economic scandals and refuse the idea that it’s okay to lose a third of our budget to corruption and dubious deals.

Abiud Onyach writes on topical issues ([email protected])