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Tell me; why are we like this?

OPINION
By Tania Ngima | August 9th 2016

As a service provider, you know that you have lost public confidence when any attempts to explain a situation are met with derision and scorn from all quarters. This week we tip two thoroughly grubby, sullied hats to Kenya Power Company (KPC) and the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK).

While the second entrant must be reeling from the negative publicity they are receiving, our inept power electricity transmission and distribution behemoth must be used to the bile that is directed at them. And not without good reason. That on the parastatal’s website, ‘customer first’ is the first core value is a sham and a disgrace.

Just under two months ago, it was reported that a monkey got into a power station and triggered a blackout in the entire country.

And while it took between 15 minutes and three hours for power to be fully restored countrywide, this past weekend takes the cake. For between five and 12 hours at the last count, what Kenya Power described as a technical hitch plunged us into a nationwide blackout. Hitch is an understatement. What happened was a disaster of epic proportions.

Forget those of us who need to work out of the house over the weekend, or who reserve Saturday for family chores, which are impossible to perform without electricity.

Or those who had events. What about those people who had businesses running, for who weekends are their biggest money makers, and those for who the first day of the Rio Olympics were expected to give a significant return on investment? And all the wasted perishables that had to be thrown out.

Who compensates those who suffered business losses and inconveniences? Does Kenya Power even have Service Level Agreements? I recall a conversation that was going on regarding passing a bill to compensate users for financial losses due to outages and power disruptions.

Trust me, if this were put in place, and without the loopholes that allow the monopoly to get out of recompense, we would see a significant difference in service delivery.

But I can bet that this bill is unlikely to see the light of day, for many reasons, but mostly because of vested interests and the fact that lawmakers do not always have the interests of general Kenyans at heart.

Now, I am not a purist. I completely agree that in any service provision arm, there will be technical issues from time to time, and not every situation or problem can be anticipated.

However, that is the reason you have backup and contingency mechanisms in place.

When you are especially in a space that is dealing with such a security sensitive sector such as energy, being good enough just won’t cut it.

To have a whole country disconnected from power for even a few minutes is an embarrassment and exposes us in multiple ways. And as long as KPLC is a monopoly and we are not subscribed to them out of choice, we have every right to expect that the service we have to pay for is reliable and delivers as it is mandated.

And then there is NOCK. Putting the country in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. There are calls for our representatives at the Rio Olympics to be treated better. And with good reason. Yes, I acknowledge that there are some behind-the-scenes intrigues that not everyone laying public criticism at your door is privy to.

But there is one thing for sure and it is that you have dropped the ball. There are claims that the same mistreatment of athletes that plagued us at the 2012 games in London is on show in 2016.

Of note is that athlete’s coaches are travelling way after the athlete’s themselves, defeating the point of having a coach.

Having a coach, if you have any knowledge of performance games, goes beyond training and the results on the scoreboard. There is a less tangible, but similarly important role that revolves around motivation, mentoring, counselling and cheerleading.

There is one, and one reason why you exist. It is because of the teams going to the Olympics and as such they should be your biggest priority. To, as we have heard, send administration staff that have nothing to do with the actual games to Rio at the expense of the actual competitors is absurd.

This right here, is the reason our champions defect to compete for other countries where they are treated with a lot more respect and compassion.

And finally, the Sh8.4m question. Will someone please explain to me why we are spending this amount of taxpayer’s money (at Sh50,000 in daily allowances) on politicians whose only apparent role is to write a report post Brazil? If this is indeed a legitimate role, why were no changes effected after the 2012 Olympics to ensure smoother running and treatment of athletes? Does it not make more sense to spend these monies on the actual people who we expect to bring home the awards?

In the words of about a million other people, ‘Why are we like this?’

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