Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Our Ministers Don't Know

Ministers and state corporation chiefs who were ranked as poor performers in last year’s evaluation report released last week are up in self-righteous indignation. They’re taking every opportunity at public events to rave and rant with spectacular idiocy about their ‘unfair persecution’ which to me seems only to further validate the report.

First of all, the fora at which they are delivering their defenses are inappropriate for their hoity-toity posturing and to me, fellows who cannot sort out what to say, where to say it or when to say it are quite obviously ill-equipped to manage their dockets within defined parameters. As politicians they are obviously tempted to open their mouths whenever or wherever they see a microphone even when ordinary common sense would dictate that they just stay quiet.

Some of the jarring noise makers do not even seem to know what they are defending, especially seeing that they were not even in charge of those dockets or even in government when the evaluations were carried out. Like one Wycliffe Oparanya (planning and vision 2030) who was appointed minister just a few weeks ago and now says that the evaluation criteria were/are vague. I do not know the extent of his brotherly love that nudges him to defend the poor performance of the previous manager but why did he sign a vague contract upon his own appointment this year? Rather than outline his strategy for better performance this year, the man is poking at the Nairobi City Council for being rated best amongst the local government authorities because “Nairobi is the filthiest town in the country”. How he arrives at that dubious assessment and where he found the time or competence to undertake the evaluation is unknown. Suffice it to say that it demonstrates the widespread inability of our politicians to focus on the job at hand, their busybody-inclination to spend a lot of their time foraging in other peoples’ turf.

Like Moses Wetangula (Foreign Affairs) who says he undertook trade negotiations with Iranian businesses to import Kenyan meat and also discussed packages with European tourism groups to send tourists to Kenya. The credit, he says, will reflect positively on his counterparts’ performance and not his. He does not say where he finds the time or impetus to carry out other ministers’ duties and leave his on autopilot then come round to plead that “I do not know the criteria used” in the evaluation. And of course, since he did not know the criteria, it follows that “I do not know why the ministry was among the poor performers”. The ministry for foreign affairs wasn’t just among the poor performers, it was the worst. Granted though, the man at the helm for the evaluation period was one Raphael Tuju whose haughtiness did not endear him to many as the country’s top diplomat. Wetangula was Tuju’s able(?) assistant at the time and since taking over the docket this year, has been treading the same path with arrogant posturing and regular diplomatic gaffes as if to out-do his predecessor. Obviously, a legal background has not refined the man’s presentation which is tragic as it debunks widespread citizen’s hopes that the time for a younger, more educated generation to manage the country was nigh.

Clearly, change in management style will certainly not be achieved with the likes of Mwangi Kiunjuri who seems slated to spend yet another stint in government as a cheerleader rather than a leader. A teacher by profession, Kiunjuri attempted to illustrate his disapproval of the evaluation criteria thus;

"One needs to look at the targets the ministries set vis-à-vis their achievement. If my ministry set out to build 100 dams but built only 50, while someone else set a target to sink 50 boreholes, but surpassed this to 100, they will be judged differently. Further, we must look at the resources required for the two targets before ranking them on the scale of success and failure,"

Kiunjuri’s illustration may seem to have a tinge of rustic cleverness although it is in fact foolish. It is an argument adopted by many of his colleagues who fared badly in the exercise and demonstrates an unacceptable level of ignorance about quality management amongst the ministers.

While a good number of working citizens have been keeping pace with worldwide developments in implementation of various quality assurance systems like the ISO standards, our politicians have been sleeping on the job only to wake up for spurts of unedifying tomfoolery. The Prime Minister, under whose office the management of the evaluation exercise now falls, must find a way to bring these neanderthal MPs up to speed if they are to play a meaningful role in managing this country. It is absurd to continue paying seven figure salaries, or any salary at all, to public officials who openly admit that they do not know or understand their job descriptions.

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