Depoliticise public service

June 17, 2009 12:00 am

, Without structural changes in the Executive and the Legislature, a fair and professional public service under a hybrid system of government is a distant dream.

As long as the government usurps also the power of the State to recruit managers, public institutions cannot operate efficiently. Since the government of the day is a parliamentary political party, infiltration and politicisation of the public service, constitutional offices, the military and the police becomes the order of the day.

In the circumstances, parastatals and government departments become cash cows for the politically correct. In the race to millionaire status, public corporations have been run down by the mighty whose power cannot even be questioned by the Controller and Auditor General.

Conspiracy to loot State corporations under the management of such appointees is common. The looters use the booty to campaign for elective posts and they have come to be known as development conscious. To others, these are our “role models”.

Corruption and ethnicity in the public companies are unstoppable because the chain of command disappeared simultaneously with the merger of State and government under the command of one person.

Under the present system, the Executive appoints judges, ministers, permanent secretaries, public company chairmen, boards of directors, chief executives, commissioners to statutory commissions including the Public Service Commission and the Electoral Commission.

The deployment of 1,500 police officers in Nyanza   province as poll agents of a political party in 2007 general elections is a case in point. A senior cabinet minister also summoned police officers and the provincial administration heads for briefing on how to handle the 2007 elections which ended in chaos. The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) did not address the complaints in time to avert chaos.

The just disbanded ECK is a living example of political manipulation of constitutional office holders. Former ECK chairman, Samuel Kivuitu prematurely declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of 2007 presidential elections. Violence erupted in which hundreds perished and nearly half a million displaced. The ECK commissioners could not disappoint the appointing authority in the exercise of their constitutional mandate. Kivuitu and his commissioners have since paid the price for their actions.

One cannot expect the Judiciary to be an exception or to be impartial in the hearing of cases against the government of the day that also appoints judges.

If we were to restore the glory of the public service, we must first and foremost separate State from government for purposes of efficient service delivery, transparency and accountability.  Similarly, a second chamber must be revived as part of an internal check on legislative excesses and abuses.

State employees should be recruited by an independent Public Service Commission appointed by the Parliament and political appointments by the government should be limited to a term of the ruling party following which, those appointees should be retired and paid gratuity.

One thing is certain: the merger of State and government in 1964 was the genesis of the country’s current problems.

From the foregoing, we should subscribe to the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That saying is so appropriate in present day Kenya. Power concentration breeds dictatorship and corruption as evidence can show. There is too much power concentrated in the hands of the Kenyatta successors – whose administrations vices were perpetuated and perfected in society.

(The writer is a former member of parliament, Cabinet Minister and Secretary General of the former ruling party Kanu and the Liberal Democratic Party. Email: [email protected])


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