Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Long and vengeful memories

Interesting to see that no matter what progress we make, there will always be critics. City cleaning by = Why isn’t it being done by NCC staff (who have already shown you they cannot handle the task)?; Digital transformation of Nairobi = Way to steal collections; -- Polycarp Igathe, Deputy Governor of Nairobi City County
The Green City in the Sun, as Nairobi City was once known, is a pale shadow of its former self, not that its former self was something to write home about. City Fathers have always had plans on how to turn this city into a "world class" city. Those plans never seem to come to fruition. And in the Age of Devolution, those plans have left a bitter aftertaste. Le Kidero promised us a transport system to rival Berlin's; he delivered more chaos and dysfunction. His Sonkoness had a one-hundred-days plan that has been quietly shelved. And now his deputy, Mr Igathe, sees fit to argue that legitimate questions about public services by the county government are illegitimate.

Le Kidero's failures were the reason why Nairobi's voters chose Messrs Sonko and Igathe. Few believed their promises but many hoped that they would manage the city in a way that delivered results that benefit the city's residents. It is becoming increasingly certain that the duo knows little about running a county government and that they are becoming adept at PR like their neighbour in Machakos county. Their social media blitz is designed to shut down any legitimate criticism of their performance and to obscure the fact that both are out of their depth in running a large and complex entity like a county government.

We will judge them on the provision of basic services such as public sanitation, water and sewerage, and public transport. So far, they have demonstrated a complete and utter lack of appreciation of the dire state of affairs, carrying on with the failed policies of Le Kidero and his predecessors in City Hall. Even if the 2017 drought hadn't reduced the amount of water available in the dams that supply water to the city, the new county government has done precious little to ensure that services are improved. Water rationing is now part and parcel of their legacy, and the fact that water vendors, large and small, are thriving is an indictment of His Sonkoness's and Mr Igathe's inability to protect the interests of the residents of the city.

But Mr Igathe's petulance regarding the status of the Sonko Rescue Team, hashtag and all, raises suspicions that not even he understands why the "charitable organisation" is performing functions that should be performed by the county government. When His Sonkoness was a senator and gubernatorial candidate, the Sonko Rescue Team was an excellent political cudgel when wielded against Le Kidero and his incompetent government. His Sonkoness is now the governor of Nairobi City County and he must work within the law. The status of the Sonko Rescue Team in the provision of public services must be clarified.

The doubts surrounding the Sonko Rescue Team and what they are authorised to do go to the heart of transparency in the management of county affairs. We do not know if the young people in the Sonko Rescue Team are county employees or whether they contractors. We do not know if public funds have been appropriated to pay for their services. We do not know whether or not they are to be held accountable for damage caused to public or private property or whether the blame should fall on the county government. Mr Igathe's petulance is probably intended to hide the truth regarding the Sonko Rescue Team. We may never know the truth if this how the county government intends to respond to questions regarding service delivery or the expenditure of public funds. What His Sonkoness and his deputy forget is that the same scythe that shortened Le Kidero's political life will also be wielded against the duo if they carry on in this petulant vein. Five years is not an eternity and Nairobians have very long and vengeful memories.

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