, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – When Philip Kisia took over the reins of City Hall as the Town Clerk, a lot of questions were raised as to whether he would be able to cope with the quagmire of confusion that characterised the running of the Nairobi City Council (NCC).
Indeed, his appointment came in the back drop of chaos involving cases in which his predecessor John Gakuo was accused of grand fraud in running the council.
This bleak scene did not however dampen the spirits of Mr Kisia as he took over with the emphatic promise to institute the much needed reforms at the NCC.
Capital News caught up with the 46-year-old immediate former managing Director of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and he shared his career path with us as well as some of his plans and goals for the council.
Q: When were you born and where did you go to school?
A: I was born in Ofafa Jericho in 1963. We lived with my mother throughout my schooling and I can say that she has been my mentor. I went to Agha Khan nursery school and primary school and then later I went to Bungoma where I studied in Chesamis High school.
Q: What career did you want to pursue as a teenager?
A: I had hoped to do law but I changed my mind and got into hospitality management in 1983. I then proceeded and did my first and second degrees at USIU which took me a total of two years. I later on went to Harvard University and then Singapore University where I went through a course for top executives and leadership skills.
Q: How can you describe your journey to become a Town Clerk?
A: It has been a long and tiresome journey. I went through a lot of companies before I could consider myself qualified for the job and despite all the obstacles I encountered, I came out tops in the quest for the job.
Q: What do you think were the negative parts of City Council when you came in and what are you doing to improve?
A: I think the City Council of Nairobi, like any other council or municipality, is facing a lot of challenges. We have internal problems and challenges with the structure that we have. It is too bloated and I think that time has come when we need to focus with our core functions by relooking at the structure so that it is relevant with the current requirements of the city.
Internally, again, there are problems with our systems. We are operating manual systems and yet the City Council of Nairobi with all its challenges still has a turnover of about Sh7 billion (with an additional) Sh3 billion from the Local Authorities Transfer Fund. So a company that is handling close to Sh10 billion cannot operate without an integrated information system.
Q: How do you think that you will be able to go through the huddles at City Hall?
A: The first thing is not to think about a problem but to look at those so called problems as challenges; so one needs to change his mind set. Challenges are there for managers to sort out so I believe that I have what it takes to address them.
Q: What is your plan for City Hall? Have you set goals and targets and what are your areas of priority in your work?
A: Within the few days from the time I took over I found people without clear responsibility. Somebody holding a position of a Deputy Director but has no clear functions allocated to him. I have corrected that and everybody up to the third level has got very clear targets. I have also tried to create synergy within the team.
Q: What other key reforms have you put in place?
A: Previously, there were very weak internal controls where payment was made for services that had not been provided and that is being corrected by empowering people at various levels. The other thing is that as a council we seem to be losing each and every court case. Out of ten cases, we lost nine of them. I am also told that we owe advocates up to Sh1 billion leave alone the cases that have not been heard.
Q: How difficult is it to move the council into the information age using the old systems?
A: I am going to use a high level consultancy firm to carry out a complete review of the systems we have. After that is done, then the consultancy is going to recommend to us what type of integrated MIS system we should have. Afterwards we are going to look into the area of manpower training and then the issue of equipment. It is not impossible. This has been done elsewhere and it can also be done in the City of Nairobi.
Q: What are you doing with the housing rates section where there are missing files?
A: I am fully aware of the problems that the housing department is facing. There are issues to do with corruption and I have since made some changes there. I am aware that some people are evicted under the guise that they have not made payments. I am currently handling the situation and such issues are being dealt with. We are also currently re-organising that department.
Q: What are some of the real priorities that you want to start focusing on?
A: One is on the issue of traffic congestion. We will be making an announcement about converting some of our roads into one-way, changing delivery times for trucks from day to night, diverting heavy traffic vehicles out of the CBD and dealing with the issue of public transport and making them operate in a more orderly manner and of course enforcing the by-Laws.
Q: What plan do you have for hawkers within the Central Business District?
A: We have come up with a plan to integrate the informal sector into the mainstream economy. In the meantime we expect them to operate within the law. Those who go outside the law will be dealt with firmly.
Q: What advice would you like to give Kenyans as a whole?
A: Never operate without a vision. You must have a very clear vision and where possible document it. Do not say that it is only companies or a country that documents visions. Have a clear vision of where you want to be. And for the young ones, they need to work smart and remember that we are now operating in a local environment.