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Denying ministry funds to complete housing projects wrong

By Editorial | November 19th 2013

Kenya: The National Treasury should find, and allocate, Sh11 billion to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to complete stalled public works. 

If it is true that the funds for the projects were transferred to the county governments, then the Treasury would be duty-bound to recover the money from their respective budgets in the next financial year.

 Failure to provide the ministry with the funds it needs could mean the loss of all the monies that have been spent on the projects so far. Obviously, it would be prudent for Treasury to ascertain the status of each project and ensure that the funds provided are used for their intended purpose.

Otherwise, public officials on the ground might draw the money and put it to their own use in the knowledge that it would take time before their malfeasance comes to light because of the confusion brought about by the hasty devolution of projects and services.

 There is reason to believe that the prospect facing Lands, Housing and Urban Development — of having abandoned projects — is not unique. The collapsing of ministries and departments following the formation of the new government also affected projects and staff. 

The exercise left many staff members hanging between ministries and departments and between the national and county governments.

This is good breeding ground for the emergence of a new crop of ghost workers, whose whereabouts are uncertain but who duly turn up to collect their salaries.

 The only logical solution is to carry out staff audits at all government offices scattered across the country. This exercise should be carried out in tandem with the local authorities to smoke out those who might attempt to appear on both payrolls.

To reduce the amount of money spent on the exercise, the authorities would be best advised to co-opt personnel from public institutions, including staff of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) with supervision being provided by Public Service Commission (PSC) officials.

 It would also be prudent to hire the services of a leading human resources firm to audit not just the numbers but also the competence of the employees. This would have the salutary effect of making it easier to place the employees in slots where they will be expected to be at their best. Incidences of having employees qualified in one field but deployed in another should be avoided at all costs.

Indeed, an audit of competencies in government should be followed, not by firing of employees who through no fault of their own may have been deployed in areas for which they were not qualified, but in re-deployment and targeted re-training.

 Time has come for the government to also take a second look at its training facilities to ensure that they are up to the task. Where these institutions are found wanting, the government should not shy away from allocating the resources needed to get the job done.

 All this should be done in recognition of the fact that only a well trained and fully-engaged civil service will deliver the services the country needs to attain Vision 2030.

Having square pegs in round holes and abandoning projects would, most certainly, be the wrong way to go.

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