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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Should we reshuffle cabinet or overhaul administrative system?

13th May 2012

As expected, the latest cabinet reshuffle and its implications to the present and future development of our land of apparent peace and harmony continue to be among the hot issues preoccupying the citizens of this country. Reaction to the new cabinet was instant and intense, and the development is likely to keep us busy for quite some time.

Views on the new cabinet are diverse. You have those who hail it and tend to entertain the idea that the new brooms in the new outfit will sweep clean and consequently improve efficiency in the management of public affairs. There are critics who openly opine that what we have witnessed is a game of musical chairs and a semblance of old wine in a new bottle.

This school of thought believes that the approach being taken to address the problem of poor administration and mismanagement of national resources, that is ditching a few ministers and replacing them with new faces, is not only naïve but also ineffective. They refer to the whole exercise as mere cosmetic change.

My interest is in this category of critics. They seem to make an important point and there is much sense in their arguments. Their case is that the unstable country’s economy characterised by double digit inflation, now above 20%, a huge nation debt estimated to be about Sh20 trillion, inadequate utilities, energy blues, transport crisis and you name it, can simply not be attributed to non-performance of a few individuals in a complex system responsible for propelling the wheels of the state machinery. Only accomplished escapists, witch hunters, as well as those lacking tools of social analysis can entertain the “blame individuals” approach.

It is true that the mess is a combination of many things which went wrong in the past, are still going wrong today, and may continue to go wrong in future - unless strategic actions and plans are undertaken with deep commitment from the top leadership and other actors in society. At this juncture we may as well revisit some of the observations made by the “overhaul the system “proponents in regard to what ought to be done to put the management of both national affairs as a whole and the economy back on the right track.

First, honest economic analysts will tell you that socio-economic planning, which is vital in managing the economy and providing social services in a fluid local and international economic environment is, to put it mildly, poor - that is in the sense that at times the process is influenced by the political considerations, failure by some leaders to look beyond their noises, as well as the preoccupation with “politics of the stomach”.

Second, some observers will tell you that the public - private sector partnership unveiled a few years back seem not to be working as envisaged, and its modus operandi urgently need to be revisited, much as the principle and motives behind it may be genuine.

It seems the implementation of this arrangement has been a victim of conflicts of interests, where some key public officials mandated to make decisions on public-private sector deals happen to have stakes in a public companies involved, either directly or by proxy.

In short, the corruption bug eating our society to the core has found fertile ground in the public-private sector partnership experiment. This scenario cries for a thorough investigation.

Then there is the question of how top officials in the government and public sector as whole are appointed to key posts, whose holders happen to have much say on the allocation of the nation’s resources.

Obviously the systems and procedures of appointing these bureaucrats are either flawed or badly implemented, resulting into having incompetent as well as officials of questionable integrity in some of these offices. In any case, most of these fat cats are appointed by the President whose word, according the power he yields under the current constitution, is law in itself.

Talk about the culture of accountability, where top functionaries are expected to be responsible for failure to spot and act on mismanagement practices taking place in their dockets, and you will discover that we tend to believe the whole concept is a foreign one! Some of the disgraced former Ministers said so without mincing words when they were told to resign after the Auditor General had discovered some financial skeletons in their ministerial cupboards.

All said, it is obvious that the patient, in this case our country of peace, needs surgical treatment not palliative drugs. The question is: can the envisaged new constitution handle this complicated case?


Henry Muhanika is a media consultant

Email: [email protected]

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