BY ICT CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION OF KENYA
The ongoing wrangles about the second term of the Director General have hit the ICT consumers with awe and it must be resolved in a transparent and objective manner. This is so at least for three reasons.
First, the country must work tirelessly to ensure that we have a seamless switchover as planned. The digital switchover must be used for the benefit of people by creating a pluralistic society at the minimum.
Second, the regulation of the telecommunications sector must be guided not just by principles of profit making but ensuring universal access and public service.
Third, the regulation of the electronic media must ensure that frequency spectrum is not just allocated to the rich and mighty in the private sector. Sufficient frequencies must be safeguarded for public broadcasters, community broadcasters ensuring that each county in the country has at least a single public TV and radio channels and a number of community radio.
To meet the above aspirations, the Communications Commission of Kenya has to be independent, transparent and effective in performance of its regulatory roles. This can only be done when the CCK is transformed to pass a constitutional muster as set by Article 34(5) “Parliament shall enact legislation that provides for the establishment of a body which shall-
(a) Be independent of control by government, political interests or commercial interests;
(b) Reflect the interests of all sections of society; and
(c) Set media standards and regulate and monitor compliance with those standards.
In this line, ICT Consumers Association of Kenya commends the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Board for its recent announcement of performance evaluation of the CCK Director General. Performance evaluation is a good mechanism for monitoring the performance of public servants and as consumers we appreciate the role that objective, empirical assessment of persons tasked with running an organisation such as CCK could play in governance of public corporations.
Kenya is in a new Constitutional dispensation where citizens are guaranteed freedom of information (Article 35) as well as a consumer rights (Article 46). As consumers we are concerned about the process followed in appraising performance of the Director- General and would like to raise the following questions in relation to the same:
1. What was the evaluation mechanism used in reviewing the performance of the Director-General? Who carried out the assessment? What areas were assessed? What performance measures / parameters were used? Did all members of the performance evaluation panel agree? Where can members of the public find information on the evaluation? Against what benchmarks was the Director General evaluated?
2. Considering that the Director General was subject to a performance contract every year during his three year contract, was performance evaluation done every year? What were the results of the evaluation for the previous two years? For which period was his performance not satisfactory? If indeed there was any dissatisfaction, what action was taken to remedy the problems.
3. While CCK Board recommends that the current Director-General’s term not be renewed, what measures does it propose in the interim for the continued smooth running of CCK? How, for instance, shall issues such as the impending number portability among others be dealt with?
4. In the event that the term of the current Director-General is not renewed, what provisions has the Board made to recruit suitable candidates for the same post? Is the current Director-General allowed to re-apply for the same job?
It is important for protection of consumers that the Board develops fair processes to be followed in carrying out the objects of CCK. We therefore call upon the Board to make public information on processes used so far so that the public may discuss this important governance question from an informed point.
In this debate, our interest as consumers and Kenyan public is that open processes take precedence over commercial and other interests. Under the tenure of the current Director General, consumers have gained remarkably and we would therefore be apprehensive if what the Board intends to do is carry out an experiment, especially at this critical time when there are scheduled communications platforms and technologies changeover that have been opposed by certain business interests.
ICAK Executive Committee:
Alex Gakuru, Chair (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Joseph Simekha, Caroline Kimutai, Danny Irungu, Grace Mutung\’u