Thursday, October 27, 2016

It starts with you

I don't know why it matters, but it matters that you have to be inspired in order to aspire to something great. Greatness is not borne of boredom; it is borne of great inspiration, commitment and focus. In our never-ending war on graft, inspiration, commitment and focus are notable by their absence. It matters a great deal that we are about as inspired as a stop-motion film of paint drying. In the dark.

When the Business Daily reported that an interim report of an audit of the Ministry of Health's 2015/2016 books showed a massive five-billion shillings hole, double-payments, over-invoicing and unaccounted-for expenditures, we were not surprised. When it turned out that one-and-a-half billion shillings, meant for the President's flagship free maternity programme, was also (allegedly) missing from the Ministry's coffers, we were not surprised. When it was reported that when the Principal Secretary was confronted with these allegations, instead of denying them and being done with the story, he had the temerity to threaten the reporter with unwarranted invasions of her privacy, our capacity for shock was exhausted. Dr Willy Mutunga's observation that "we are a bandit economy" no longer stings in the light of the events of the past two days.
 
Public relations can only take you so far; at some point, when they ask you to show them the radiation therapy equipment and operators you promised them, you have to show them. When they ask to see the "10,000 housing units" you have built for police, real brick-and-mortar buildings better be standing. Glossy newspaper pullouts are not, nor have they ever been, public policy. They have never been the genesis of public policy. They never, ever will be. PR can inspire but it can also be abused. At this moment, our relationship with our government can only be termed as an abusive relationship.
 
When the serial loser, Raila Odinga, finally got his ass handed to him by the Supreme Court, most of us just shrugged our shoulders, thanked God almighty of all creation that no dingbats had spontaneously disagreed with the electoral commission or the Supreme Court, and turned to the niggly problem of trying to earn a living in what was no longer Mwai Kibaki's working nation. We were a tech-enabled Digital Nation living in a Digital Era and our children would have the Digital Tools necessary to survive in a hostile and competitive global commercial environment in which everyone with a widget was making out like King Midas. That illusion was swiftly dissipated when it became brutally clear that the Dynamic Duo were neither prepared for the burdens of high office nor that they cared sufficiently for the working stiffs getting blown up in bloody regularity. PR supplanted policy. Speeches supplanted action.

The only ones who are truly loyal are the ones who have nothing to lose yet still stick around, no matter what. It is amazing that in three years the First Lady of Kenya has managed to engender such goodwill from even the hardest of hearts such that she has bought and equipped forty-seven mobile clinics in a bold plan to guarantee that no mothers die at childbirth and and children survive their births. Beyond Zero has been her rallying cry. It has been our cry too, even the cynical among us. And it has been betrayed cynically and cruelly. Even if it turns out that the Auditor-General missed a few receipts here and there and the figure was "just" five hundred million that was missing, one-tenth of the alleged missing five billion, you will have missed the point if you thought that this vindicated her husband's government or his Ministry of Health. What it will have done is to remind every Kenyan alive that this government inspires the worst instincts in its worst state officers, of whom there seems to be an endless supply.

We are not inspired, not by the glitz, glamour, pomp or circumstance of all the world's leaders making a beeline for our sunny shore. Not even the Pope lifted the mood. Matteo Renzi? Ati who? Obama tried, but he lost us the moment his Power Africa Initiative consumed the bulk of the serikali seriousness. Narendra Modi? Meh! We though we were on the same side as the boss when he said he would boldly lead the fight against thieves. Didn't he in fact send his ministers packing for their sins? But when a mere ministry functionary has the temerity to argue that "government will spy on you" for challenging him on his audit, well, the security of public funds starts with you, my friend.

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