The Government needs to get its act together

A woman drinks milk as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko distributes relief food for residents of West Pokot Turkana county. [Photo:Samson Wire/Standard]

Disturbing realities confront the country and create a sense of national despair. Organs of State that should be responsible appear irresponsible when natural calamities strike. In the process, institutions of Government that should be working together are inexplicably dissonant and tend to demoralise citizens.

The demoralisation is because the citizens expect better performance than what they see. Questions then arise as to whether the dissonance, demoralisation, and growing despair are the consequences of incompetence, crookedness baptized corruption, bureaucratic mischief, external manipulation, or a combination of all four.

Whatever the case, organs of State do not inspire confidence. There is, for instance, drought and hunger in the country but the narrative coming from Kenyan officialdom is discouraging. There are reports of major corruption, in billions, which boggle the mind. Yet officialdom, executive and judicial, is split on the way forward.

Big corruption infiltrates all organs of State. In the supposed citadel of justice, the Supreme Court, judges face allegations of accepting bribes in order to reach certain decisions of high import. Members of the national parliament, both the senate and the national assembly, compete to insult each other and to accept appropriate inducements to facilitate their understanding of what the issues are.

Food induced

At the county level, governors and their county assemblies appear to be in league to 'eat' billions of shillings sent to the county every year and as a result they give 'devolution' and hard work bad names. As thousands of new millionaires and billionaires emerged with little to show in the form of public good at county levels, they demotivate young people from working hard.

The new super rich who think Sh10 million is pocket money operate in a world that is not familiar to the roughly 50 million Kenyans trying to eke out a living; they are hungry. There is a principle of three 'A's; availability, affordability and accessibility whose application failure leads to food induced deaths. For the three to operate in harmony, proper coordination is mandatory. If any of the three is missing, then delivery becomes difficult. Since proper coordination of the three 'A's is missing in Kenya, there is hunger induced death.

The eking out is particularly vivid in times of drought. It makes little sense for officials to shift blame to each other regarding whose responsibility it is to feed hungry Kenyans. For granaries to be full of maize in Kitale and for food not to be accessible or affordable to people in Lodwar or Baringo on account of coordination confusion and jurisdictional claims is country damaging.

County officials are under pressure, and should be under pressure, to explain what they have done with billions of shillings they receive every year to provide services at the local level, most critical being to anticipate and handle rain shortages and short bouts of hunger.

 Governors’ conference

The incredulity of the failure of county officials, however, pales compared to national officials engaging in the semantics of hunger. They ridicule themselves in their denials of visible realities that people have died or are dying of hunger.

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, for instance, had problems claiming that the over Sh7 billion spent on Galana maize irrigation project was successful. Deputy President William Ruto and Interior CS Fred Matiang'i compete with the realities flashed in all types of media of people suffering from hunger induced misery.

They confidently asserted that there is sufficient food to feed all people in need and that not a single Kenyan has died due to hunger. And then Red Cross boss Abbas Gullet is seen dishing out food, appealing for donations, and lamenting the increasing number of hunger related deaths. People are extremely hungry and probably becoming angry.

They are angry not only because they are hungry, but also because of the dissonance in the institutions of state. In the Executive, officials contradict each other or attack organs of State they should be defending.

It happened during the devolution conference. The President declared his trust in the investigating team only for his deputy to question the competence of the organ fighting corruption at the same forum.

Then the leader of the Senate majority complained of investigation selectivity saying: “We demand equal treatment in investigations of all projects in all sectors in all counties.” The Executive needs to get its act together, remove the dissonance, or suffer perceptions of increased pabulum.

Prof Munene teaches History and International Relations at USIU.