Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Waste in Kimunya's Budget

The men and women we elected to the tenth parliament do not seem to have the capacity to read, digest and debate the budget proposals that Kimunya tabled before them last week. Not one of them is taking Kimunya to task for the inevitable waste of billions that will take place when they pass the expenditure proposals without as much a as shift in a comma. And yet the law requires that if they are not through with this parody of a debate before end of this week, then half of the Ksh 760 billion budget will automatically be passed to him to spend. What, pray tell, are the changes that these people plan to bring about to ‘the management of public affairs’ when they go about house business so sloppily as to entrench the impunity that they yap against with boring repetition?

It is quite obvious from the dissonant noises they are making in and out of the House that the single item from the entire budget that has caught their attention is the proposed taxation of their unjustifiably high allowances. I actually think that if Kimunya hadn’t mentioned it in his speech but instead tuck it somewhere in the supplementary documents, it would have passed without as much as a hiss! While the rest of the country has for years been unequivocal about the issue of MP’s taxation, they still opt to squander national time in foolish arguments instead of engaging Kimunya on why he continues to fund sheer wastefulness in government. Perhaps in the knowledge of the queer reading habits of his colleagues, Kimunya has quite shamelessly spelt out in his documents various expenditure items that immediately rankle a discerning citizen. It is even possible that his speech highlights (zero rating bread and taxing MPs) were really just a devious prank in diverting members’ attention to unproductive racket while passing the tucked items of extravagance without hitch.

Unfortunately for them, the documents are not top secret even though the MPs reckless ignorance propagates the non-transparent exclusivity of the budgeting process. So far only Kimunya’s speech has been publicized but some resourceful citizens have accessed the supplementary documents whose analysis they are able to disseminate and promote awareness to all. Highlights of the waste;

  • Ksh 2 billion for foreign travel, about Ksh 5.5million for every day of the year!
  • Ksh 2.6 billion for purchasing cars. The government owns 10,395 cars with 149 of them assigned to State House.
  • Ksh 2.5 billion for entertainment including Ksh 280 million by the Ministry of Finance alone.
  • Ksh 2 billion for commercial printing. Last year it overshot this by spending Ksh 6.2 billion. Revenue from the official Government Printer was Ksh 100, 000 only!
  • Ksh 900 million for servicing loan towards the non-existent Mombasa KenRen fertilizer plant.
  • Ksh 4.9 billion for servicing loan towards the controversial Navy ship. More than the budget for Ministry of Water!

And on and on it goes… funding all manner of projects some of which are even conceived at whim for purposes of playing politics like the proposed constituency football. These expenditures are indefensible and reek of corruption conduits for which members of the House need to rise up against if they are worth the honor.

Is Raila Odinga, through collective irresponsibility, accepting this profligacy for the sake of ‘reconciliation and national healing and making the Grand Coalition Government work’? Will Ababu Namwamba and his motley crew of Grand Oppositionists show that they are up to the challenge and vote against these reckless proposals? Or are they also rebels without a cause? At least Kimunya has made it clear that he has nothing new to bring to the table and is stubbornly for the status quo. Do any of the other fellows know what is going on around them?!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Soccer for all by 2030?

Our Finance Minister now wants to equip the idle young men in the country with soccer balls and uniforms so as to engage in constituency tournaments all year round. This, he says, will keep them away from mischief and perhaps even earn them some living. Although he has not spelt out how he or anyone else will go about achieving this feat, my estimation is that his pronouncement is just a stunt that he hopes will cool the youth as he scratches his head for inspiration and innovative policies.

In what he described as the most difficult budget since he became the Finance Minister in 2006, Amos Kimunya proposed to address the challenging issue of unemployment amongst the youth thus;

“We will initiate and make operational a national football competition countrywide in every constituency, which will act as a mechanism to productively mobilize youth toward environmental and economic activities. I have allocated 1million to each constituency for the purchase of sporting kits to initiate community soccer competition.”

Easier said than done but as is usual with our disingenuous leadership, he talks of “We” when brushing over the intricacies of putting plan to action as opposed to “I” when allocating accolades to self in anticipation of success. Should the venture fail, as it surely will, he can come back and say “It was I who allocated the money; it was you who failed to make the program operational.”

Apparently, the budget drawing process is still largely an exercise exclusive to the treasury bureaucrats despite recent (feeble) calls by legislators to open it up for wider input from interest groups. Had the participation of target groups, in this case youth groups, been sought and incorporated, such shady plans couched in vague statements of intent and subsequent wasteful disbursement of funds might not occur. One such group that could provide enormous insight into the nitty-gritty of successful mobilization of youth is the Mathare Youth Sports Association.

Started in 1987, MYSA is a self-help organization involving approximately 20,000 young people promoting sports for development, environmental clean-ups, leadership training and community services. It has grown into an internationally renowned youth organization serving over 350 sports teams from 50 slum villages and estates within Nairobi. It is run for and by the youth themselves in 16 zones of the city with the average age of elected officials, volunteer organizers and coaches being 16 years. The youth driven leadership initiatives have contributed positively and immensely to the wellbeing of their community through slum clean-up, HIV/AIDS awareness, library/study halls projects, assimilation of children with disabilities, integration of refugee children, and rehabilitation of jailed juveniles among other activities. Examples of MYSA Alumni working abroad include Moses Mutuli (Deloitte and Touche, London), Maurice Njoroge (Building with Books Inc, Connectitcut), Eng. Patrick Busaka Kanzika (Edmund Nuttall Ltd, England). Others studying abroad include Alex Kimani and Ali Mohammed (Milligan College, Tennessee), Anne Nekesa, Lilian Mwangi and Beth Onyango (USA), David Waithaka (Park University, Missouri), Maurice Wambua (University of Rio Grande, Ohio), Robert Oguda (Southern Nazareen University, Oklahoma). Alumni playing professional soccer abroad include Arnold Origi, Wycliffe Juma and George Midenyo (Norway), Macdonald Mariga and Simon Mulama (Sweden), Sunday Juma (UAE), Titus Mulama (Rwanda) and of course Dennis Oliech now with Auxerre in France and previously earning a cool Ksh 5.8million every month playing for Nantes.

The success story that is MYSA is probably what Kimunya and his officers had in mind when crafting this ‘empowerment’ proposal even though they might not readily admit it. However, such achievements of the MYSA cannot be arrived at by million-shilling allocations to non-existent football groups. Indeed, such a group cannot be created out of a top-down government edict even though it would be a splendid idea to use MYSA as a model to roll out others countrywide. Most noteworthy in the MYSA model is the exclusion of politicians and government functionaries in its management.

What the government should be doing is facilitate funding of the numerous viable youth groups in the country but without the usual impediments that make the monies inaccessible. The unspent funds of the National Youth Enterprise Fund are testimony to the bureaucratic hurdles that frustrate youthful venture. Strangely, this year’s budget for the NYEF was raised by another Ksh 500million in addition to another Ksh 250million to provide ‘support, guidance and information’ to the groups! So in addition to the Ksh 210million for constituency football, that makes about Ksh 2billion to be kept under lock and key in the name of the youth. As usual, Kimunya exhorted finance officers to desist from wasteful expenditure of funds but then goes ahead to prepare ground for them with budgets for ghostly projects.

As MYSA has shown, the young men in this country can succeed very well without this highfalutin claptrap from government.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mis-educating Kimani Maruge

Kimani Maruge, the octogenarian from Eldoret who holds the Guiness Book world record as the oldest primary school pupil, seems to be more of an intriguing trophy to be clutched on by various parties for the attention that he draws. For the four years that the 88 year-old great grandfather has been attending school at Kapkenduiywo Primary, he has been a regular news item in the local and international media without any clear demonstration by any of his handlers of benefits accruing to him educationally. And not until a few days ago did a semblance of social transformation take place when he was transferred to an old people’s home, after four years of shamelessly parading his squalor before world cameras.

“He is an international figure… It is illegal for one to sneak away a pupil just like that!” exclaimed Mrs. Jane Obinchu when she learnt of Maruge’s relocation from Eldoret to Nairobi’s Cheshire Home for the Aged. The relocation was done by the Red Cross Society who said they did so upon the old man’s request.

“It is tantamount to throwing away his education to the dogs,” said the chairman of the Parents and Teachers Association Kapkenduiywo School who also called on the government to “come to our rescue because Maruge had dramatically increased enrollment in the school by inspiring families.”

The ‘outrage’ by the school officials seems suspicious especially having mentioned in their interview with the press that “some well wishers including the Kenya Institute of Management were meeting the cost of his upkeep and so there was no financial problem.” It seems to me that their grumbling is really just about missing out on the funds and favorable publicity that will probably not be forthcoming any longer.

I dare suggest that these school officials have actually been abusing Maruge and ought to be sanctioned for professional misconduct. They cannot pretend to have been teaching Maruge through a curriculum structured for the minds of minors when they are fully aware that there exists an adult education program which is suitably tailored for this kind of learner taking into consideration a mature mental disposition. The language of instruction for Maruge and that of his 9 year-old classmates can never be the same, making his purported lively presence in their classroom a nuisance and potential hindrance to proper assimilation of skills. I highly doubt if any of the teachers at the school have received the extra training requisite for instructing mature learners like Maruge. That the ‘teachers’ have been awarding Maruge high scores in arithmetic and even made him the school’s ‘head-boy’ is most likely not a measure of the old man’s ‘excellence’ but a scandalous display of official deceit.

The UN Global Campaign for Education who arranged for Maruge’s exhibition in the United States last year should visit Kapkenduiywo and organize for counseling of the little kids who may have been traumatized by the old man’s stint in their midst, a trauma now manifesting as the why-have-they-snatched-our-Maruge syndrome.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Obama to Kenya; "Yes, We Can!"

Senator Obama’s victory in the Democratic Party’s nomination race fittingly demonstrates the audacity of hope and its power to bring about change we can believe in when we believe in our ability. Loads of congratulations are in order for the young American senator whose inspirational run has captured the attention of the world and which now primes him to take over as CEO of the USA.

Here in Kenya, wuod k’ogelo’s superlative performance through such a grueling challenge should inspire the youth to take a serious self audit that can spur many to set about bringing change in this potentially great nation of ours. To rise up and, to paraphrase ndugu Obama, say;

“…This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love. The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. (We can) face this challenge with limitless faith in the capacity of the (Kenyan) people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then (we can be) absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended wars and secured our nation and restored our image. This was the moment--this was the time--when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals."

Can we do that or shall we loaf about in anticipation of gifts from relatives in distant lands?

Can we do that or are we content to perpetually stand by the sidelines cheering in the dust as our leaders zoom past with promises of tomorrow?

Can we do that or are will we wait for our “principals” to set our development agenda and pace?

Can we do that?

Yes we can!