Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kosgey’s decision evidence of impunity

Sunday Nation 17 October 2010

Very few post-promulgation actions by the grand coalition government demonstrate the need for a truly fresh beginning like the recent action by the Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey.

The minister, in keeping with a time-honoured practice by successive post-Kanu governments, allegedly chose to ignore the recommendations by the board governing the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and selected an individual who shares his name to be the organisation’s CEO.

Notwithstanding the subsequent arguments about the lack of unanimity in the board’s decision, and the interpretation of the minister’s powers under the relevant Act of Parliament, the minister’s action needs to be scrutinised more closely.

Scientists operate on the premise of probabilities in most of the analyses they do. Coincidence plays little or no part in a scientist’s life, and every event can be explained fully, provided all the initial conditions are known.

Consider this scenario: Under some future government, you are appointed the Cabinet secretary for one ministry or other. Now a vacancy arises in one of the parastatals under the ministry, and there are very clear statutes governing how the vacancy is to be filled.

The board governing the parastatal follows the laid down procedure, and finally hands you the name of the most qualified applicant. To your utter surprise, you discover that the candidate is none other than your own brother.

Average Kenyan

What would the average Kenyan do in such a situation? Inevitably, the answer to this question appears simple to many — they would just go ahead and, on the strength of the board’s recommendation, appoint their brother to head the parastatal.

They would thank their lucky stars that their brother is so clever that he did not need any influence-peddling on their part to clinch the coveted position in the ministry. But in a civilised society, the answer would not be that simple.

The best approach, in my opinion, would be to ask the board for all the minutes and documents they relied upon to make their decision, and scrutinise these with a fine tooth-comb.

The aim of the scrutiny would be to satisfy oneself that one’s brother is indeed the most qualified of all possible candidates, and that he won the job purely on merit and in a competitive, objective process.

Only after being satisfied that this was the case should one make the appointment, and be prepared to answer all sorts of questions from a suspicious public whose first reaction would be that the minister is a despicable nepotist.

In relation to the Industrialisation minister’s decision, is it possible that the minister went through a process such as the one proposed above?

Has he adequately addressed the concerns of the suspicious public that his decision was swayed not least by the similarity between his name and that of the prospective Kebs boss?

Public officials

Of course this question should be asked of all the ministers and other public officials concerning the appointments they make and the tenders they award.

Indeed, this is the spirit of Chapter Six in the Constitution focusing on leadership and integrity, and any public official who does not measure up to this standard of moral probity should be compelled to seek employment elsewhere. But of course, as a friend likes to remind me, “this is Kenya”!

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

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