BY COLLINS WANDERI
When State House released the names of people President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Cabinet recently appointed as Chairpersons and members of the Boards of 79 State Corporations, a lot of young people including ardent supporters of the Jubilee regime took to virtual space to express discontent with what they considered as deliberate exclusion of the youth from prime state appointments.
A State House based operative attempted to explain away this glaring anomaly by suggesting that Boards of Parastatals are idyllic appointments which do not need a lot of energy and creativity and hence fit for older people who are required to meet only four times in a year. He suggested that young people should wait to be considered for appointment to positions of Chief Executive Officers or Managing Directors of state agencies which have been without top managers for some time now. This hypothesis is both preposterous and symptomatic of naivety in matters relating to the internal operations of state agencies.
First, Boards of State Corporations no longer sit four times a year. A lot has changed in government and state agencies have adopted modern principles of corporate governance and international best practices. Boards do not just sit to make policy, give strategic direction and draw allowances. Most Boards now have specialised Committees which deal with Finance; Budgeting & Planning, Human Resource Management; Recruitment and Promotion and Internal Audit.
This means that Boards now exercise overarching influence on the internal management of state corporations. It is members of the Board who influence recruitment and promotions and largely determine who moves from supervisory and middle management to top management. Boards also get involved in procurement and determine how and to whom lucrative tenders are awarded. Every experienced and honest public s officer knows that it is virtually impossible to get into the top management of a state agency or secure a lucrative contract without some degree of facilitation by a ranking Member of the Board.
Whereas in the past young people took to virtual space to analyse the names and ethnic origins of the appointees, this time around many were disgusted by the large number of old politicians and people with eminent surnames in the list of appointees. The appointments seem to have been made more on the basis of political considerations rather than technical expertise and experience. People appointed for political considerations without going through a competitive selection process are likely to have a sense of entitlement and unlikely to embrace competition in recruitment and promotion of staff in state agencies.
They are in fact more likely to further and entrench the culture of nepotism and favouritism in the appointment and promotion of staff. It is for this reason that young people from humble social origins in particular have a good reason to be concerned about these appointments. This government should pay serious attention to their claim of deliberate exclusion from state employment and formal structures of governance.
The government is no longer an employer of last resort reserved for those who do not secure employment in the private sector. With enhanced pay perks and numerous benefits accorded to civil servants, the government has become very competitive and the employer of choice for many people with graduate and post-graduate qualifications. However, the current trend of appointments is slowly turning the public service into an exclusive club, a preserve for eminent personalities; the rich, politicians and their children. When young people who are historically disadvantaged owing to their social origins feel excluded from opportunities in government, they turn into pessimists who view life through the prism of impossibility and negativity. Their anger and negative energy is very easy to exploit for militancy.
Those who are enjoying the trappings of state power and access to government tenders in Kenya today should never forget that politicians exploited gullible unemployed youth to create ethnic militias which precipitated the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and rendered much of Somalia ungovernable since the fall of the late Siad Barre in 1991. The subject of hate and target of violence in both countries were sections of society which were viewed as favoured by the State. This is a ticking time-bomb.