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Kenyans are bent, that is why they see things upside down

By Mark Bichachi | March 18th 2020

Residents of HZ area at the Kimwarer dam, Keiyo South Constituency in Elgeyo Marakwet County. [File, Standard]

A story is told of the bent woman. The lady was so bent that she was literally seeing the world upside down.

Upside down was her normal and how she saw the world was corrected in her mind that she saw upright. It is this upright picture of her upside down world that made her not see the need for healing when she met Jesus.

She looked at Jesus, listened to him, saw him heal others, but never realised that she needed healing. For to her, abnormal was normal — and there in lay her problem.

Kenya is like that woman. It is upside down and that is how we see the world. Since independence, Kenya has had a bent back; hence seeing the world upside down and thinking it is normal because our minds have corrected the image and our bentness has not stopped us from walking.

Our bentness comes from two historical and current realities. We are tribal. In turn, the tribe makes us corrupt.

In reaction to these realities, we have changed our laws and made these issues the be-all and end-all of administration.

It is true we are trying to correct an error we can see, but we are correcting the side issue and forgetting the main thing: Delivery.

Choose chefs

As such, we commit to deliver the face of Kenya and we forget to feed the stomach of Kenya. We choose chefs from all over the country but unfortunately forget to bake a cake.

In the end, and like the bent woman, we keep correcting the picture and forgetting to correct our "upside downness". The face of Kenya, though important, matters little if there is no delivery.

We have changed laws and multiplied laws, yet our back still appears bent. So we do what we always do.

We correct the view but never really change the bent back. In this case, we are so focused on ensuring things are done by the book.

We find it important to give a tender to the lowest bidder, regardless of quality delivered. Because we want to prevent inflated bills, we care less about quality. The image is correct but the result is bent!

Think, for example, if you were to hire a doctor; the best one is most often the most expensive. If you tendered for a doctor in Kenya, you would go for the cheapest. You would have the right picture of fighting corruption and saving money, but you would have watered down delivery.

The issue should not only be about fighting corruption; the fight against graft must be tied to delivery.

The cheapest is not always the best, and ticking all the boxes does not mean that we will not be supplied with 'air'.

For example, when the government pays for construction of an airport, but an airstrip is delivered, the paperwork would look perfect but our back would remain bent. It would be bent because what was procured has not been delivered.

Free mandazi

If what we set out to do is to build a dam, and the dam is not built despite the paperwork that should constitute a crime. This is because in most cases the law is followed, yet nothing is done.

The examples are many. Take public participation as an example. It is a good idea to include the public. But generally the public does not care and as such people rarely attend public participation sessions. The few who do are there to eat free mandazi and tea for the most part.

In this case, the legal requirement is met but the public participation is a sham! Right picture, but bent back!

We must begin to implement the spirit of our laws and not just the letter. It is not enough that we use Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), we should use the IFMIS to get the best.

If we want to take the fight against corruption to the next level, we must check delivery and not just the process. We should know that a process can run right but the resultant product may be a sham.

Kenya is today like a perfect factory, but the entire staff is concerned with the look of the plant, the tribes of the staff and management and the process.

Little regard is given to result. We forget that if the result was good we would not care which tribe baked the cake. All we would know is that we all have something to eat.

We must move away from having the right picture and focus on having the right result, and thus correct our national bent back.

Mr Bichachi is a communications consultant. [email protected]

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