Not keeping time shows disdain for your office and the employer

President William Ruto signs performance contracts at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

Being late for meetings and public events was a status statement by the political elite until this week when President William Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua dressed down members of the Executive for turning up late for the signing of performance contracts.

It was absolutely refreshing and welcome to see the DP arrive so much earlier and the President right on time.

It was even thrilling for them to order closure of all entries to the venue for the latecomers.

This hopefully sends a strong message that tardiness will no longer be tolerated. In fact, the culture of arriving late is so ingrained in us that it is extraordinary to see leaders arriving on time or even before time.

It would be great to see timekeeping extended to launches or opening ceremonies and to all public events graced by state officers and public servants whether from the Executive, Judiciary, or Legislature.

Political and government leaders are notorious for not keeping time, perhaps believing it makes them appear busy or important.

In fact, they have no qualms about arriving unapologetically four or even six hours late having kept people waiting for them.

It is worse when people are asked to arrive at the venue at 9am and be seated and all exits closed, yet the guest of honour is expected to arrive or arrives at 2pm to a tired and a hungry audience. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The message being send to people is their time is not as important.

In most cases security officers also arrive earlier to keep law and order and “settle” the people before the arrival of the guest of honour.

Being late makes others feel you’re impolite and that you do not respect their time and it can also appear unmannerly to colleagues who are on time. It is worse when you keep your bosses waiting for you because you are late.

The president was right to lecture his team for turning up late and to explain to them the message their late coming is sending to those who turned up on time or earlier. In all cultures and institutions, latecomers are viewed as untrustworthy, not dependable, and disrespectful.

It is a terrible waste of time because events do not begin on time and therefore end late.

The culture of lateness is quite pervasive in Kenya, especially by political and public leaders who generally do not care much about others’ time and are not accountable for their actions.

For DP Rigathi to raise the issue of lateness and for President Ruto to take it up is a great step to ending lateness impunity and can herald beginning of a culture and work ethic of discipline and dependability.

I hope it cascades to all government and public offices thereby making service delivery efficient, accountable and effective.

This should be extended to public offices where people spend days chasing services that can be efficiently provided within a few hours if public officers are good at time management and are sensitive and accountable for wasting citizens’ time.

It is strange to find service charters displayed in public offices with timelines within which services are rendered and yet those timelines are not respected.

The biggest culprit of lateness are political leaders and state officers, yet they are supposed to be accountable to taxpayers who are their employers. Elected leaders can keep their voters waiting for hours.

There are numerous benefits to keeping time. For example, arriving at meetings on time, which cannot take off without all members being present because of lack of quorum. Being on time increases efficiency and performance and ensures timely delivery of services.

It also reduces stress and anxiety, boosts confidence, and ensures a higher quality of work because no one is rushing around to recover lost time because of lateness.

Lateness is a form of corruption, incompetence and dishonour to one’s office.

It was therefore wonderful to watch and listen to President Ruto dressing down his team for lateness, misconduct, corruption, lack of accountability, incompetence, ignorance, and lack of clear communication with citizens.

I sincerely hope this heralds a new culture in public governance.