They say it takes one to take on the other. That’s probably why a number of us will question the President’s will on upholding and sustaining economic growth, one year later. As John Githongo would say, Kenyans always get the leaders they deserve at the ballot. It’s always a reflection of who we are as a people. This notwithstanding, I wish to contribute my two cents on the debate which our government has decided should form part of our discourse as a people. The Wage Bill Debate.
In the past, I’ve had short stints working with the government of the day. Last year, for a period of about five months, I was an intern at Nairobi City Council. There I met the famous Geoffrey Majiwa, Reuben Ndolo, the veteran Joe Aketch, and a few other Nairobi politicos. I was around when the March 4th elections were held. I was still there when the 85 county reps were sworn in. I had the opportunity to witness the electioneering and swearing in ceremony of the county reps, and their Speaker, Mr. Alex Ole Magelo. I met most of our political leaders. For some, I shared a room during various forums. For others, I stood next to, in the cloakrooms. Well, that’s not why I’m writing anyway. Let’s just call it my few seconds of fame.
Something about the public service that comes out clearly is their entreaty to keep hidden the truths and realities about Devolution. Kenyans have been treated to hideouts on their roles as equal partners in the business of governance, social audits and the general running of our counties. Many are still grappling in the dark over what they can do, in action, to drive the new constitutional order. And for those who’ve seen the light already, they are thoroughly incapacitated to take action. Because usually when they do, it always ends up political. That someone is trying to bring down “our tribe”, or infringe on “our interests as a people”. For this reason, as the Council of Governors plan their Devolution Conference on 3rd April 2014, seeking to enumerate the challenges of Devolution one year later, they ought to submit all their 47 names as the one of the main stumbling blocks facing Devolution.
The president and his deputy are not spared at all. Recently, he has been under attack to prove that indeed, he is for Devolution. Why? Because his wordings and actions are not commensurate. They are yet to convince me, and other Kenyans that they are actually not taking us for a ride. Where in the world does a president come out crying before that the media that corruption is at his doorstep, while he owns the machinations of fighting graft? Where does a President raise the red light on an increasing wage bill deficit, and two weeks later, promises car grants to county reps? All this in the same country.
One year later, devolution is still a concept in most parts of the country. Kenyans are not just in the dark over their roles in matters of governance, but many don’t even know what their county received in terms of budgetary allocations. While positions for county reps were introduced in order to bring governance closer to the people, and avoid cases of absentee MPs, many of these county reps have instead followed suit in trend.
The fight against corruption gets wearier by the day. Take for instance the EACC, whose funding was reduced in last’s year budget. What better way is there for a government to prove its commitment towards fighting graft, other than funding the right bodies to do their work? The president is on record, recently calling out to various agencies to craft a national policy on fighting corruption. This gets me worried. And I wonder, are we short of laws and provisions to fight graft? The answer is no. We have enough legal provisions to enforce the fight against corruption. The problem is that we lack the will to fight it. This coming out strongly from the country’s top CEO.
Uhuru recently travelled by road to Arusha, appearing on the dailies addressing rallies on his way there. That’s not wrong really. But what exasperates me is that he used his usual convoy, of more than 40 guzzlers which most definitely bolstered the costs, over and above what he’d have used normally. Sarah Serem still claims she hasn’t received any official communication from both the President and his deputy over their announcements to take a 20 per cent pay cut. Meaning, that their salaries paid for the just concluded March, are still intact as they ever were. And even if she actually received the requests, what difference would it make, when someone takes on a 20 per cent pay cut, which in turn is considered as a donation to Treasury, instead of putting it into meaningful development-oriented projects? This is a case of misplaced priorities, or just the usual political stunts by the government of the day. And how I wish it were the former. Because that we can address, while the latter is simply an insult to Kenyans.
Until the president addresses the massive wastage still rampant in all public offices, the suspicious disappearance of 16 per cent of taxes collected by the taxman, the continued paying of ghost workers, the heavy spending on useless foreign travels, heavy allowances paid to non-performing public servants, the duplicative Parastatals still in effect, he can as well keep the wage bill debate to himself. Because every time he mentions the wage bill and then fails to commensurate this talk with appropriate action, he is taunting us provocatively. As a matter of fact, the wage bill, like many others, now sounds like some cold war propaganda to revert attention on what exactly needs articulating for the benefits of Kenyans.