Friday, October 28, 2016

Thanks for the apology but please resign

Some of the qualities of a good leader have a moral-ethical bent to them: transparency, integrity and accountability. These, believe it or not, are found in Article 10 of the Constitution as part of the values and principles of governance. They apply to everyone who "makes or implements public policy decisions" such as the decision to streamline public finance or the implementation of the Integrated Financial Information System, IFMIS. Vague-sounding the principles may be, but, I believe, they encapsulate what we, the people, wish our government to be, to reflect and to protect.

So, while Nicholas Muraguri may not be the most sensible public officer in government, and his tongue seems to get the better of him every now and then such that he stuffs his foot in his mouth, he seems to have taken lessons from the stupidities of Philip Kinisu who declared that he would not resign when conflicts of interest related to companies he is associated with came to light. He wouldn't resign, he was emphatic, because he had done nothing wrong. Between his I-will-not-resign declaration and his resignation were barely sixty days!

Mr Muraguri was reckless and intemperate and that alone should be cause enough for the President to demand his resignation. (The President won't ask. Regional balance meshuggah, see?) He is, however, an astute student of politics; his apology, inadequate as it was, is a brilliant stroke. He admits that what was reported about his utterances was (largely) true; his integrity may be shit, but he is transparent and has, in effect, asked us to hold him to account and forgive him.

He also hopes that by the time the Auditor-General is done with his ministry, missing documents will have been found and the allegedly mission five billion will have been fully accounted for. I fear he will not be so lucky. The drip-drip-drip of scandalous revelations from the Ministry of Health has been incessant since the day thirty-eight billion shillings was set aside for "medical equipment for the counties," seemingly without consulting the end-users, county governments. This missing five billion is only the latest in a long list of financial queries that the PS has to address. His apology may have come too late to save his ass.

The Ministry of Health is a surprisingly opaque institution; no one really knows what goes on in there other than the occasional mysterious battle to appoint the National Hospital Insurance Fund's, Kenyatta National Hospital's or Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital's CEOs, a succession of lacklustre, grey-faced, colourless, well-connected mandarins with the charisma of chalk and the PR skills of a tub of lard. It takes a minute before one realises that it is its ubiquity that makes it so adept at hiding in plain sight; billions go missing, drugs shipments disappear, doctors and nurses regularly go on strike, epidemics regularly break out and public health policy remains stuck in the colonial era but few of us see it or appreciate the insidious nature of that ministry.

Mr Muraguri, his Cabinet Secretary and the senior-most officials of the ministry in charge of making and implementing policy may have attempted to put the genie of Mr Muraguri's threats back in the bottle, but the djinn of misgovernance is already out there wreaking havoc without mercy. On Mr Muraguri's watch, infant vaccines have vanished, putting millions of children at risk of infection. That alone should be grounds enough for Mr Muraguri to resign if not to be fired outright.

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