Friday, October 24, 2014

How to win.

When billions are on the line, whether the billions are denominated in shillings, naira or dollars, no one is above suspicion. Not if they carry a passport with the coat of arms of the Republic of Kenya they are not. Therefore, when it comes to all the public and non-public characters swirling around the laptops tender, the Lamu coal power plant tender, the standard gauge railway tender, the Kitui Mui Basin coal mining tender...our suspicion should be cranked up to eleven. I don't trust the people drawing up the tender documents. I don't trust the people reviewing the bids. I don't trust the people awarding the tender. I don't trust the people signing the contract. I don't trust the people appealing against the award of the tender. I don't trust the people hearing the appeals. I don't trust the people financing the whole kit and caboodle. 

I don't trust anyone when it comes to these sorts of tenders because I am not a naive, fourteen-year old girl visiting the city for the first time and being taken advantage of by an oily parliamentarian in Chester House. It is an attitude more and more Kenyans should adopt because their government has become a machinery for the collection of taxes and the conversion of those taxes into lucrative, white-elephant, billions-shillings tenders of dubious value, dubious utility and dubious legality. We have been here before. This is not our first time at the garden dance. Kisumu Cotton Mills, Rift Valley textiles, Kisumu Mollases, Nyayo Bus Corporation, Kenya Railways Concession, Turkwell Gorge Dam, the 10th All Africa Games, the Nyayo Pioneer Car Project...it is not a short list. So spare us the Vision 2030 fairy dust. Fool me once, shame on me.

We never seem to learn. Throwing money at a problem will generate short-term solutions, but will magnify the inevitably resurgent problem. Take the constitutional reform process. It gave us the Yash Pal Ghai team and the Nzamba Kitonga team, and swallowed up billions of shillings. We thought we were home an dry with the Constitution we promulgated in 2010. Then we held a general election. Whatever word we will use to define where we find ourselves, we should be honest enough to admit that the billions that the constitutional institutions are snuffling today are a pale shadow of the billions that all three previous regimes consumed because of the speed with which we are consuming billions today. It is the National Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, plus the national-government based constitutional commissions and independent offices, plus the sprawling parastatal edifice, and the forty seven county executives and county assemblies. If the scale of the billions-shillings snuffling doesn't give you pause, you must have greater testicular fortitude than I.

The habit of solving all Kenyan problems through money or legislation is not a new one, but it is one that the Bretton Woods institutions favour against all evidence that these solutions have led to greater political and economic instability in Kenya. It is time we tried a new way. It is time o admit to ourselves that our problems will never be solved simply by making new laws or loading up on more debts. And it is time to admit to ourselves our government is too big for us to handle. The President had the right idea about government-owned entities, except he was too timid in what solution was, which should have been Bill to repeal every single Act of Parliament that establishes a government-owned entity, whether it carries out a vital function or not. 

Second, all those CORDists screaming themselves hoarse about a referendum have the wrong idea. If a referendum is to be held, it should be to merge counties and county governments, reduce them to the 8 provinces we used to have. Third, devolve everything but national defence, diplomacy, health and education to the counties. Yes, even policing too, should be devolved and in the larger province-sized counties, there should be no fear of mini-armies being created for restive governors. Amend the law to provide for a small armed national response police unit; the remaining county police should walk among us without bearing firearms. Devolution should also include that of the Judiciary and the Office of the DPP; a national Judiciary and a national prosecution service have proven to be the greatest impediment to the administration of justice.

Now since the national government has been substantially shrunken, there is absolutely no need for a 290-constituency, 47-county parliament of elected representatives. We can revert to the 122 National Assembly at one-third of the allowances they used to get. Tell me we won't be the happier for it?

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