NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – The directive by the Ministry of Finance that gave married couples six months to decide who among them will stay in the same public office and who should resign has elicited great passion in the past week. A cross section of Kenyans are enraged by the action many say lacks any basis of argument.
According to the man in-charge of the government’s purse this move would reduce corruption and conflict of interests in some key state corporations. Mr Joseph Kinyua implies that married couples are the cornerstone of corruption when they work in the same government department.
Gender activists see this radical move by the government and Mr Kinyua as a ploy to marginalise a certain cadre of our society- the women. These activists led by among others Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and League of Women Voters are concerned that women who have been historically sidelined would through this directive be marginalised and victimised to give in to their spouses.
I have interviewed many people including female colleagues in the office and received varying opinions on the issue. Some have unapologetically dismissed it as a shallow argument. As many would say there is nothing wrong with couples working together, long as they are qualified for the job and they adhere to the principles of work. What Mr Kinyua should be addressing is identifying specific cases where corruption by couples has been proved and deal with the specific individuals.
In any case were the mega scams like Anglo Leasing, maize scam or Goldenberg as a result of couples managing the institutions where such graft was taking place? Not at all.
On the basis of couples dragging their domestic issues into the office, some people agree with the policy but disagree with its implementation. Their argument, which I agree with, is that instead of outright sacking or forcing people to resign, the government should redeploy these people to other departments. This would be fair for the said couples as well as those who would have to put up with office cuddling or the extension of domestic quarrels.
In my honest opinion the government has lost focus on this one. There is no problem with couples working together so long as both are qualified and joined the organisation in a proper way. If people have been hired on pure merit and through proper channels why the heck should it make one lose their livelihood by being attached to another? Mr Kinyua, your government should invest in strict policies that curb corruption and do not for heavens sake break-up relationships by your policy.
In Africa men have always been considered the breadwinner or provider of the family. If you tell the couple to decide who among them should leave, well the criteria is definitely clear – the woman should leave – then what will happen to the promise by the government to give equal opportunity to female folk?
All odds are against this decision and Mr Kinyua must rescind it and save the government the shame it seems intent to face.