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COMMENT: We must address nepotism, tribalism and favouritism in civil service – Raila

“I regard the Civil Service as the foundation of nation building and national development. Nations begin to fail when the civil service begins to fail.

Over the years, Kenya has maintained a comparatively functional civil service. But there remains tremendous room for improvement. I envisage a civil service that is defined by discipline, hard work, high morale, efficiency, and high ethical standards.

How do we realize this? We must address the issues of nepotism, tribalism and favouritism in the civil service. These three ills have demoralized so many officers who then become mere hostages to a system they believe does not appreciate them. Frustrated officers stay on just to secure pension and turn to other ways to supplement income and get fulfilment. They become brokers where they are supposed to be moderators.

Journey To Crest of Civil Service

The nation and citizens are the losers. We must give our civil servants the assurance that if they work hard, maintain a clean record, exercise discipline, then nothing will stand between them and rising to the top. We need to design and adhere to a clear career progression path for civil servants that stands no matter which party or leader takes power in Kenya.

It’s possible to run a civil service that thrives on seniority and merit-based promotions. We have to eliminate conflict of interest in the civil service. This is the main cause of the corruption, public mistrust and poor and delayed services that have come to be associated with public sector.

Civil Service protests
Kenyan in a past protest. Raila is rooting for reforms in the civil service to bring in merit-based promotions. PHOTO/FILE

When government procurement officers are also suppliers, the consequences are obvious. We need to promote creativity in the civil service. World over, civil servants tend to play safe, merely taking and implementing instructions. Kenya is not any different. We have to change this and institutionalize ways to enable civil servants who have different ideas on how to do better, bring their ideas to the table.

Tips from Private Sector

We need to devise a way through which civil servants can be allowed to spend time in the private sector and return to public service. Such a system creates an understanding in the public service of how the private sector does its work and how the two sectors can complement each other.

We must enhance the capacity of the civil service to engage in strategic thinking. Many times, civil servants are caught in routine office work. We need to push our civil service in the direction of the private sector where strategic thinking rather than business as usual and maintaining status quo is a must or you sink.

We must create linkages between government and private sector, particularly the think tanks to enable civil servants pursue routine work and engage in strategic thinking at the same time. We need to put maximum emphasis on creating and making use of first-rate think tanks who have no job other than to think for the country.

Best Brains, Experienced Hands

We will need to pack such institutions with the best brains and experienced hands and use them to feed our civil service with timely research, analysis and policy suggestions. We made full use of the National Economic and Social Council with spectacular results in the Grand Coalition Government.

We must borrow from the developed world where public policy think tanks are all over the place and are constant players in government. We will need to maintain an up-to-date database on solid professionals and experts on issues like manufacturing, technology, economy, education, youth and international affairs and constantly tap into them.

As we tap into think tanks, refresher courses for civil servants will be a must. These are important in helping steer officers away from what has worked in the past to what addresses current and anticipated challenges.

Competitive Pay

With these measures in place, we can then institute a system for ensuring competitive pay and a welfare system covering basic salary, allowances and welfare Expenses. This should ensure the civil service attracts and retains men and women of quality. We can then subject the civil service to rigorous performance measurements and public perception tests.

Those who perform will be rest assured it comes with benefits while those who fail also know there are consequences that include no promotion, pay stagnation or release from the service.

Expected result is an honest, patriotic, professional and efficient government that can deliver services to citizens, steady the country and stick to our national objective regardless of the politics of the day. I believe we can do it.”

-Raila Odinga is the ODM Party leader.

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