It is time we spent public money on public facilities

Sunday January 3 2016

Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Isaack Hassan during the launch of a report on the quality of the principal register of voters at the Institute for Education in Democracy on June 20, 2014. The IEBC has said this year will be an election year. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Isaack Hassan during the launch of a report on the quality of the principal register of voters at the Institute for Education in Democracy on June 20, 2014. The IEBC has said this year will be an election year. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LUKOYE ATWOLI
More by this Author

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), 2016 will for all intents and purposes be an election year, given that the next General Election is set for August next year.

While this presents us with the usual challenges associated with an election year, including reduced productivity and increased political noise, it also provides us with an opportunity to solidify some principles that have been emerging quietly over the past five years or so.

To take an unfortunate example, a deputy governor in one of the counties suffered some broken bones, and made the decision to seek treatment at a hospital in the United Kingdom.

This treatment and all related costs will probably be footed using tax money.

While it may be true that the health care system in the UK is more advanced than ours, it is totally improbable that the kind of treatment this public official sought is unavailable in this country.

As a matter of fact the treatment is available even in county level facilities that have Orthopaedic surgeons in their employ.

In my view, it is an individual’s inalienable right to select a health provider of their choice whenever they need health services.

The caveat to this is that the individual must also be able to finance his or her choices.

Where a third party is involved in paying for the service, it is inevitable that this third party also participates in the choice of provider.

Where this third party also owns and runs health facilities, one would expect that all beneficiaries would first be seen at these facilities before being referred elsewhere as necessary.

PUBLIC FACILITIES

In the case of public officials, one would expect that their first port of call would be at their nearest public health facility, where the health workers would then advise on the availability of the required service and whether referral is necessary.

It is only in cases where the service is unavailable in Kenya that such a public officer would be referred abroad for treatment.

This is a matter of common sense, in my view, and not one for legislation under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately, in this country people enter elective office in order to improve their own circumstances rather than to serve their voters.

It has become the tradition that we need to legislate even on matters of the commonest sense.

One would, therefore, suggest recently proposed legislation that requires public officers to seek treatment only in public facilities.

Of course, one would need to put in a rider that this applies only to services paid for by taxpayers.

If a public officer chooses to go elsewhere, they ought not be restricted as long as they are paying for it themselves.

The same principle should apply to all other services rendered to public officers and paid for by public funds.

For instance, if the State is paying for the education of a public officer’s children, they should only attend public schools.

This way, the officers responsible for these services will regularly encounter them and gauge the quality of services offered.

It will then be more urgent that they ensure the services are of acceptable quality, good enough to be offered to the occupant of the highest office in the land.

It has been done elsewhere, and it can be done here as well. Happy New Year!