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Why civil service should be privatised

By Dismas Mokua | February 16th 2014

By Dismas Mokua
[email protected]

The civil service in any country is an indispensible proposition for socio-economic development. It is in the civil service that all policy-making organs and implementation agencies are domiciled.

All countries that have achieved high performance indicators in a short space of time like South Korea and Malaysia owe their success largely to a results-oriented civil service. Their civil services have given special interest groups a back seat and placed a premium on the national good. There are largely two types of civil services the world over. France and the US have political civil services where top bureaucrats come and go at every election cycle. This is a sharp contrast to the UK and Italy where the bureaucracies have their own lives.

Civil servants are supposed to assist political parties implement their manifestos. That is why political parties, if in fact they do, to come up with manifestos during elections. There is a valid expectation therefore that civil service will implement the ruling party’s manifesto. Since President Kenyatta was elected based on the promises in the Jubilee Manifesto, his success or failure will be judged by how successfully he implements this manifesto.

However, the civil service is sometimes characterised by inertia and does not necessarily read from the same hymnbook with the political class. Some civil servants have contempt for incumbent governments, treating them as passing clouds and are obsessed with process. Some have an insatiable appetite for blocking radical reform and only execute policy when it serves their selfish interest, all this ensuring that the elected politicians take the blame.

That is why you have frustrated Cabinet Secretaries who are unable to hit the ground running. There are so many brilliant programmes coming out of the Cabinet. However, they will remain statements of intent until the civil service introduces results to the rigid bureaucracy.

While the bureaucracy is important in ensuring corporate Kenya works, the civil service needs to place a premium on outcomes as well. Kenyans need to ask themselves pertinent questions. One is what is the role of civil service in socio-economic development and what best human resource practices we need to introduce to the Public Service Commission to ensure that the Civil Service attracts and retains top talent.

An option on the table would be to privatise the civil service. The civil service needs to be privatised so that it reduces in size and concentrates on its core business that includes, but is not limited to; defence, security, law and order, physical infrastructure, public transport, public education, public healthcare and other services that facilitate dignified lives across the nation.

With privatisation, civil service will shift from provision of public services to regulation of private sector for provision of public services. Regulation is key to ensure the private sector that is driven purely by profits does not rob citizens blind.


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