Huduma Centres are mustard seed of a new Kenya

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MACHEL WAIKENDA

Every new Head of State or Government is the recipient of a poisoned chalice and cart full of expectations from friend and foe alike. Theirs stops being about mere governance and must minutely stare at the hourglass containing the sands of the quality of governance. Their choices are subject to varied interpretation and enemies ever-ready to pounce on any slip-up.

Uhuru’s Jubilee Government, therefore, has the choice of leaving a glorious legacy, being uniquely poised midway through the Second Liberation by first taking steps to deal with bureaucracy and corruption in the public service. At the other end of the spectrum, it can end up being just another has-ran.

One stark choice is to so revolutionise service delivery to world-class standard that all future dealings among Kenyans, regional partners and the rest of the world knows that Kenya is a country that is banking on the future. It is not by coincidence then that this past week, the government fired another shot across the bow of its graft-laden vessel with the launch of the first Huduma Centre.

The long awaited One-Stop Shop services became a reality after President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto graced the launch of the Huduma Centre at Teleposta Towers in Nairobi.

And why the hype about this Huduma Centre, one might ask? And why does it attract presidential attention? A few facts would suffice. Huduma, under Devolution and Planning docket, brings 18 government services from 10 agencies under one roof. Yes, this is just the first phase where provision of these services will be manual before the system becomes automated during the second phase, to offer seamless and efficient delivery of services to the public.

Huduma centres will be rolled out in all counties where all government registries will be integrated into one digital platform to ease access to information and minimise time spent on queues.

Enterprise systems will enable Government departments share citizen data and information link-up to eradicate corruption, and enhance transparency and accountability in service delivery.

The plan includes the installation of the latest ICT technology to enable customers access some services at the click of a button through the e-Huduma web portal, M-Huduma platform, Huduma call centre and Huduma payment Gateway.

Government was smart enough to establish Huduma Centres within offices of the Postal Corporation already existing across the country.

Huduma Centers bring together government services under one roof, leading to direct access and enhanced convenience for citizens, enhanced customer service, adherence to global standards for service delivery, and increased efficiency and service delivery turnaround times.

This makes Kenya competitive globally as it reduces time spent queuing for essential services. Moving these services into a one-stop-shop and onto a digital platform will significantly reduce corruption.

It is important that Kenyans ensure they only pay legally prescribed charges, electronically, and look out for public officers soliciting for bribes before serving them. Paying for these services will only undermine government’s efforts making the initiative irrelevant. When fully implemented, citizens will receive ID cards, Drivers Licenses, Birth Certificates, P3s, registration of business names and much more, from Huduma Centers.

It is clear that the Jubilee Government sees rationalisation and digitisation of public services as a way of breaking the accursed cycle of graft and removing unnecessary bureaucracy to improve the public sector delivery.

After all, the Jubilee pre-election campaign pledged a digitised new world to give Kenya’s biggest constituency that is the youth an equal chance to compete with other young citizens around the globe. The initiative also dovetails neatly with Vision 2030 as Government makes ALL Kenyans appreciate that access to government services is a right for every citizen.

And riding the crest of digitisation could well mark the cornerstone of the Jubilee legacy. It goes beyond mere counting down the years that have passed us by since Independence. As we tackle poverty, illiteracy, ill-health and unemployment, Jubilee stands to fulfill the pledges of the Founding Fathers of Kenya.

(The writer is a political and communications consultant)

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