Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It's a free country, Miguna

Miguna Miguna promises that "Within three months after assuming power, we shall actively source funds and embark on the construction of pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes, under-passes and over-passes in all parts of Nairobi..." If his campaign is successful and he is elected as Nairobi City's second governor in August 2017, his bold three-month fund-raising and infrastructure-building plan will be surely tested, especially because he intends to stand for the election as an independent candidate.

In Nairobi City, the following county offices will be filled on the day after the general election: Governor and Deputy Governor, Senator, Woman Representative and Members of the County Assembly. Mr Miguna must name his preferred candidate for Deputy Governor; it is after all a joint ticket to head the county executive. To date, we do not know if Mr Miguna has a running mate and what that running mate's qualifications are.

For the most part, a governor can ignore his senator and woman representative when governing, though it is not advised at all. The poisonous relationship between Nairobi's incumbent governor and both his senator and woman representative has denied Nairobi a friendly ear in the Senate and national Assembly which may have encouraged the infighting and backstabbing among Nairobi City's elected representatives, interfering with the delivery of services and prolonging the suffering of Nairobi City's residents. Mr Miguna has not outlined his vision for fostering co-operation and co-ordination with the county's elected representatives in the Senate and National Assembly. I hope he has a plan.

However, a governor cannot govern without the co-operation of the county assembly. Whatever plans he may have for "the construction of pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes, under-passes and over-passes", they cannot come to fruition without an Appropriations Bill being passed by the county assembly withing Mr Miguna's proposed ninety-day period. As an independent, that is unaffiliated, candidate, Mr Miguna may not have solid relations with the Speaker of the County Assembly, the majority or minority leaders or departmental committee chairs in the county assembly. Building those relationships from scratch may not succeed within a span of ninety days. What will be the fate of Mr Minguna's Appropriations Bill? No one knows. Mr Miguna doesn't know either or if he does, he isn't saying.

If he signs his spending Bill into law, he will now face the second part of his ambitious challenge: announcing, vetting and awarding the tender for the infrastructure programme. When he was the Prime Minister's advisor, I do not recall Mr Miguna overseeing the award of any large tenders. Will Mr Miguna be able to navigate the treacherous waters of public infrastructure tenders if he remains politically unaffiliated? Does he have any experience in identifying capable contractors? Does he have any experience overseeing the disbursing of large amount of public funds, overseeing their proper use and accounting for every cent allocated by the county assembly? Mr Miguna talks of "sealing corruption loopholes," but does he even know how many new ones will spring up after he shuts down the old ones? Again, he offers no guidance on these matters.

While all this is going on, Mr Miguna and the Nairobi City County Public Service must work together to appoint members of his County Executive Committee, their principal assistance and the senior directors of Mr Miguna's government. He promises a CEC that will be evenly balanced between men and women, but he is silent on the representation of people living with disabilities, marginalised groups, and youth. The public vetting of his nominees to the CEC will require a deft touch to ensure that vested interests, either in the county public service, the county assembly or the tenderpreneurs out there, do not sabotage the nominations of qualified persons. He offers no guidance on this either.

Finally, while Mr Miguna's vision for Nairobi is as clear as it can be, given all the concerns I have highlighted, his vision for his government is reduced to platitudinous declarations about service delivery and customer satisfaction. How does he intend to recruit qualified and motivated young people to the county public service? How does he intend to grow the county revenues to support his county public service? Are there any reforms he intends for the current county public service? Again, we simply do not know.

I admit that I am being overly critical of Mr Miguna. They say, "Once bitten, twice shy," and I have no intention of casting my ballot in favour of a man who appears qualified enough on paper without that man offering a detailed blueprint of his administrative or legislative agenda. Any man who declares himself with characteristic bombast to be the "best" candidate for Nairobi, must be prepared to have his credentials questioned at length and with great skepticism.  Mr Miguna is free to run his campaign however he sees fit and I am free to either support him or challenge his rhetoric whenever and wherever I please. If he feels that I'm being unfair, I invite him to go over the meaning and import of Article 33 of the Constitution. (That would be the one on the freedom of expression, by the by.)

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