, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – The Ministry of the East African Community (MEAC) on Monday started a one week induction course for about 30 new integration officers with a challenge to them to draft a budget for the ministry to effectively carry out its mandate.
Minister Hellen Sambili argued that following the implementation of the Common Market Protocol, the ministry had a lot of work to do in sensitising Kenyans about the community and setting up the necessary structures. She said this would require a lot of funds to be channeled towards this process.
“We don’t have enough money. The budget of this ministry is very small and with the spirit of participation and the determination to bring out the integration process, we need to be able to sensitise not just the citizens but the elected leaders and various institutions,” she stated.
Although she declined to state how much money they would be asking Treasury to fund the proposed programmes, she disclosed that the ministry’s entire budget is roughly Sh1.2 billion, half of which goes to the EAC as Kenya’s annual contribution.
The ministry has in the past complained that it is underfunded, a situation that hampers its role in the integration process as well as its visibility across the country.
The officers being trained will be expected to drive various areas of the integration agenda.
Permanent Secretary David Nalo said the setting up of the much awaited information offices at border posts would be done before the end of this financial year.
The integration centres in Namanga and Busia will not only provide information access points for East Africans wishing to take advantage of the freedoms provided in the Common Market Protocol ( free movement of persons, capital, goods and services and labour) but will also be a mouth piece for the ministry at the grass root level.
“We have been accused of being an ivory tower of East African Community so the major job they (officers) will be doing is following up integration issues; helping to coordinate the various departments that are operating individually and they will also be the centers where we could be getting complaints in real time so that we can pick up the issues,” the PS said.
Their establishment, Mr Nalo assured, would not be a costly affair since it would be done in collaboration with other government ministries such as Immigration that will provide the offices where the centers will be housed.
“We are doing this within the framework of ‘one-stop-border post’ legislation which requires that we work together so don’t expect to see at the border a Ministry of EAC building,” he reaffirmed.
At the same time, the two officials said they were readying themselves to deal with the capacity issues that are arising as the ministry goes about its duties. The sourcing of more staff which will bring the total workforce to just about 200 is part of the restructuring that will enable the ministry, which now has four directorates to handle the four pillars of the integration.
The new structure will see a legal department set up to advise top management as well as other technical and administrative divisions. The establishment of an Advisory Council is also provided for through which the private sector can raise issues affecting their competitiveness in the region.