The government's first public participation forum on the Privatisation Bill 2023 suffered a major setback after three counties in Lower Eastern unanimously rejected it.
The Ministry of Finance's Privatisation Commission public forum held at Athi River in Machakos county, turned stormy affair with residents dismissed the Bill as a scheme meant to shortchange them.
Locals stormed the venue of the deliberations after word went around that only a handful of the local administration officials and clergy had been invited to the meeting to represent Machakos, Makueni and Kitui counties.
"We totally oppose this Bill, if you go back to Nairobi, please report to your bosses that we have rejected it. We have in the past witnessed some government parastatals being privatised, but the outcome has been worse instead. We are aware of the direction being taken by the government is for individual benefit," said Mark Mwendo a former MCA in Machakos.
The participants sharply differed with the organizers who were insisting on the importance of privatizing parastatals to return them to profitability.
"This particular Bill is very dangerous to our people. We have realized that the provincial administration including chiefs and their assistants are the only ones who were invited to come and rubber stamp it and make sure it goes through, a move that made some of us to gate crash the meeting," said Shadrack Muli a participant from Machakos.
They questioned the intention of the Bill saying that the public participation forum had a predetermined outcome.
Locals claimed that the selection of participants was biased. The Privatisation Commission had a rough time explaining the selection criteria of participants.
But locals vowed not to support the Privatization Bill citing an unsatisfactory explanation on how the same will impact their social and economic lives.
The Privatisation Commission Lower Eastern team leader Kennedy Ondieki admitted that the forum faced challenges due to lack of sufficient consultation and awareness.
Ondieki also acknowledged that locals had raised genuine concerns that require to be addressed in the Bill.
"We only came here to try and sensitize the members of the public on this particular government Bill, however, we are surprised by their reaction. We have also realized that there is a misunderstanding between both parties," he said.
East Africa Portland Cement PLC and Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) are among two parastatals in lower Eastern targeted for privatisation.
The Privatization Bill, of 2023 seeks to provide a regulatory framework for the privatisation of public entities including State-owned enterprises.
The speedy formulation of the draft Bill and the push to adopt the recommendations follow President William Ruto’s goal of privatising some of the public enterprises by the end of the year.