On Saturday 25th January 2014 John Githongo, PLO Lumumba, and Tom Mboya wrote an open letter to H. E. The President of the Republic of Kenya Mr. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta warning His Excellency that if three evil musketeers namely corruption, cost of living, and insecurity are not tackled, then Kenya is likely to go to the dogs. Their words read, ” Amidst the plethora of challenges, it is our humble opinion that Kenya is not at a crossroads as doomsday sayers opine, but we have reached a critical tipping point“.
On corruption the three gentlemen asked The President to “immediately terminate the current process, and begin a transparent process afresh, so as to ensure efficiency and value for money”. They continued and said, “We therefore respectfully urge your Excellency to immediately suspend the project and to make all documents germane to the Railway Contract public for scrutiny. This, in our view, will enhance your stature and spare you history’s indictment”.
On cost of living the letter pointed out the rampart increase in taxation and levies, wanton corruption and the growing wage bill that have all contributed to the soaring cost of living in Kenya. The three citizens also called on the President to run away from IMF.
Lastly the letter recognizes the dilapidated state affairs in matters security in Kenya.
First Musketeer – Corruption
In an age where we are talking about “Internet of Things”, it is sad to be in a country that hasn’t implemented proper ICT systems such as Financial Management Systems to track government spending. Nigeria for instance saved $737 million by implementing the Integrated Personal and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) that helped the country unmask ghost workers, however in Kenya it is obvious that our leadership is not interested in fighting corruption either by empowering the units created to eradicate the vice or by use of technology.
A wise one once said, “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Although the Cabinet Minister in charge of Labour hold to the view that the Tassia Estate housing project by NSSF is above board, he however went ahead and put a stop to it so that the issues being raised by the COTU Secretary General Mr. Francis Atwoli are heard and answered. If we expected the same from our beloved president, then we were wrong.
As if to respond to the open letter by Githogo and co on the matter of alleged corruption in the Standard Gauge Railway Project, The President called a Press Conference on Tuesday the 28th of Jan 2014 and said, “The standard gauge railway project must and will go ahead for us to achieve our developmental agenda”. To the critics, the President specifically asked them to take any evidence they have either to the Parliamentary Committees investigating the alleged irregularities or take the evidence directly to him; in the meantime the project must continue within the timelines envisaged.
In the Easy FM breakfast show, Macharia Gaitho and Manwa Magoma took different views following the President’s speech with Macharia having the opinion that The President ought to have waited until the ongoing investigations are complete before going ahead with the project whereas Magoma taking the view that the country cannot be held at ransom simply because those who lost in the bidding process are making a lot of noise. Nonetheless the two gentlemen questioned the legibility of the project given the different figures being floated around by the Treasury (shs 447.5 billion) , Ministry of Transport (Shs 327 billion) and some sources that talked of Shs 220 billion as the real cost of the project. Magoma said, “if you send your house help to buy bread, you must worry if the house help comes back with figures such as Shs 40, Shs 50 and Shs 60 as the cost of bread”.
The events touching on corruption that have happened and the way they have been handled since the digital duo took office in April 2013 are a clear indication that this leadership has no intention of going after corruption head on. If I use the Standard Gauge Railway as an immediate example, we all need to agree that the fact that Cabinet Ministers cannot agree to a particular figure as the cost of the project clearly tells us that something is not right with the project, the issues surrounding tendering process aside. If our leadership was indeed interested in ensuring zero tolerance to corruption in this particular project, at least the project could have been set aside until the ongoing investigations are finalized.
Even though PLO and co think that if corruption is not tackled then we might soon take to the streets, I am of the opinion that as citizens of a peaceful Kenya we’ll just complain on social media and radio talk shows until the five years of the current leadership is over, then vote them back in office come 2017. There is no tipping point we are in as corruption to us is like cancer, killing us cell by cell for years until we can’t breath no more.
Second Musketeer – Cost of living
A big government thanks to the new constitution, bloated government thanks to duplication of duties and ghost workers, increased taxation by both the National Government and the County Governments, corruption, and insecurity have all contributed to the soaring cost of living.
These are not all. Both the National Government and the County Governments have been on a borrowing spree in order to fund big projects they have envisioned for the Country and the Counties respectively. Yesterday PLO said in Easy FM’s breakfast show, “We want to buy Mercedes with a budget of a tuktuk”. Wait until we start paying back the loans!
Already people in particular counties have taken to the streets to protest against increased taxes in those counties. I don’t know how long before the entire country takes to the streets to demonstrate against the soaring cost of living. In Turkana citizens are already dying of hunger. It won’t be surprising if Nairobians join in the drought, not caused by nature, but by the inability to afford the expensive meals.
We in the tech industry are not happy either. The cost of gadgets have increased thereby decreasing Internet penetrations by 2.8% thanks to VAT that was imposed on ICT products. As fewer and fewer people get connected online, it is better for Kenya to count herself out from the $300 billion that Internet is projected to add to Africa’s GDP by 2025. Without affordable end user technologies, Vision 2030 shall forever remain a pipe dream.
Third Musketeer – Insecurity
We are an insecure Nation and a people lurking as ducks waiting to die; thanks to the investigative piece by NTV on Terrorists’ Playground. People aren’t killing themselves in Pokot, Turkana, Wajir, Samburu and other parts of the country because they hate their neighbors but because of 1. They can and 2. They lack resources.
People can kill themselves in those places simply because the government is absent in those areas. The Government is absent for four main reasons, the police to population ratio is about 30% short of UN’s standard of 1:450; secondly because the few available police officers have been assigned duties to
guard wash the vehicles of our VIPs; thirdly the police officers in those areas are not vigilant if Terrorists’ Playground is to be taken seriously and finally our Army that were recently deployed to assist in the Westgate Attack and in Wajir are best at drinking water.
Insecurity and cost of living can easily be tackled simply by having zero tolerance to corruption. It has been estimated that over 400 billion shillings is lost annually on corruption. If we recovered this money and used a tenth of it on security by employing the deficit 20,000 police officers that require approximately 4.8 billion shillings annually to sustain at a salary scale of Shs 20,000 a month and the rest on providing the services that has forced the government to impose VAT on almost every commodity in the market, then our problems shall be more than half solved.
But as discussed above there are no signs that the government intends to fight corruption either past, present or future. Fighting corruption means closing the books on Goldenberg, Anglo-leasing, Maize, and et al scandals and forcing the culprits to pay the full amounts involved – what happened to recovering the monies and properties stacked in foreign accounts?
Without a wholehearted willingness to kill corruption, then it just a matter of time before corruption, cost of living and insecurity kills Kenya albeit slowly – probably over the next 300 years.