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If we tweak BBI proposals well, we’ll have to call a referendum

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GITAU WARIGI

By GITAU WARIGI
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We are back to a hybrid system of government, sort of. According to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, we should have an executive president directly elected as is, then a prime minister who is Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly and supervisor of day-to-day functions of government.

The PM will be appointed by the President from the majority political party in Parliament, or the largest coalition of parties. The seat is predicated on the national outcry for inclusivity. But assuming the President is from the same majority party as the PM, will that promote inclusivity? What if the President and PM are from different parties with opposing policies? How will this work? That was a problem with the Grand Coalition (2008-2013), where there was frequent deadlock on key issues and appointments. What if, to muddy things further, the runner-up to the presidential election (who is designated to become the Official Opposition Leader in Parliament) turns out to be the leader of the largest party in Parliament? Will he or she be named PM? If so, who becomes the Official Opposition Leader?

The issue of inclusivity also goes with an expectation for autonomous political offices. The BBI report says the President can sack the PM, or alternatively an ouster motion in the National Assembly can send him packing. There is much anxiety among many supporters of BBI about this presidential veto over the PM’s tenure, which was not there under the Grand Coalition. Those opposed to the clause have promised to have it relooked. Still, the PM will not be a mere Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly like Aden Duale currently is. He will sit in Cabinet and be consulted by the President when making other Cabinet appointments. And as part of his government supervisory brief, he will also chair Cabinet sub-committees. The Principal Secretary in his office will likewise chair the Technical Implementation Committee of PSs, a portfolio currently held by the PS in the Interior Ministry, Karanja Kibicho. In fact, distilled to its essence, the PM position will merge Duale’s and that of Interior CS Fred Matiang’i’s supervision functions, plus the additional key role of being consulted on Cabinet formation.

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The hybrid system is further reflected in the proposal to have Cabinet Secretaries (to be renamed Ministers) sit in Parliament. Half of the Cabinet will comprise elected MPs, while the other half will be technocrats who will then be designated as ex-officio members of Parliament. MPs have been particularly insistent on this proviso, arguing that the current system of a technocratic Cabinet robs the Executive of persons with political acumen. I am not sure of that, much as I know many MPs are keen to position themselves for these Cabinet appointments.

Again, there is the anticipation that Cabinet members sitting in Parliament will better respond to the parochial demands of MPs on matters of their constituencies, which ideally are best tackled by the County governments. After all, the devolved units are to get enhanced allocations of at least 35 per cent and a maximum of 50 per cent of equitable share of national revenue.

It was a mistake to leave the huge size of the Legislature intact. Having 416 MPs (National Assembly and Senate combined) for a country of 47 million people and a GDP per capita of Sh200,000 is obscene. The same mistake was done with MCAs, who number more than 2,000 (1,450 elected, 772 nominated). Rationalisation of constituencies and county wards was an imperative which BBI side-stepped, no doubt owing to misplaced expediency. While the savings the Exchequer will make from the proposed termination of sitting allowances from salaried public officers will be substantial, the BBI taskforce should have gone further and recommend an overall reduction in government and in representation, which the BBI taskforce admitted was a demand by most Kenyans they listened to.

Making wealth declaration forms of state officers public is a very good idea in the fight against today’s runaway corruption. Better still, there should be penalties for giving false information in those forms. Another great but not new proposal is to bar state officers from doing business with the government or competing for government tenders. Anti-corruption enforcers must make sure the practice by public officers of using proxy companies to secure deals with government is discontinued.

The BBI report says the Judiciary must be accountable to the Kenyan people, but is short on prescriptions. The need for accountability is especially critical when it comes to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). A proposal worth pursuing is removing serving judicial officers from its membership. The existing situation makes for a hidebound Judiciary that covers up its own improprieties. Ideally, JSC should comprise a non-state membership of retired, distinguished personalities. That and other tweaks on the structure of governance will require a referendum.

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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