Who will make the city council deliver?

Monday May 7 2012


As the dust raised by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on the City Council of Nairobi settles, the city dwellers are waiting with bated breath for a timely implementation of the recommendations.

Spending Sh7 billion annually paying staff, 92 per cent of whom are incompetent – more than 10,000 out of the current 11,500 employees – is unacceptable.

Little wonder that City Council of Nairobi owes more than Sh21 billion to the Local Authority Provident Fund, the NSSF and the NHIF!

As expected, staff reaction was fast and furious, reminding me of Napoleon Bonaparte’s assertion that we should never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

One wonders whether the employees were suffering from the tendency for incompetent people to grossly overestimate their skills.

The Nairobi County government may have to contend with this baggage of incompetence and huge wage bill if it inherits the City Council of Nairobi.

According to the report, 7,410 employees do not possess the skills required in the new county structure and hence transfer to other county governments is out of question. Further, 3,676 of them are redundant.

The World Bank Doing Business 2011 report ranked Kenya at number 35 globally on the ease of dealing with construction permits.

Earlier, Kenya was rated among the world’s most cumbersome, and it took ages to be connected to trunk services such as water, sewerage and electricity.

Further, 90 per cent of slums have benefitted from lighting projects. Disaster preparedness has improved over the years. Unfortunately, staff seem to lack the tools and equipment to do their jobs.

For instance, while international standards require one fire station for every population of 300,000, Nairobi has one per two million people! This means that fire disasters will continue to be a big challenge for the council.

For the council to be converted into a highly-performing organisation, a few radical changes need to be put in place – the Four Ps of organisational improvement.

Firstly, the purpose of the organisation in the new socio-economic and political dispensation needs to be clarified and well-articulated.

Secondly, the processes should be looked into, and where possible, considered for re-engineering to ensure organisational effectiveness.

No performance improvement will be realised unless measures are put in place to improve organisational efficiency.

The organisation should be designed and structured in the best way that supports service delivery.

Thirdly, the people are the most important resource for the organisation. How are they recruited, rewarded and developed?

A systematic job analysis should be undertaken and suitable job descriptions developed for all staff.

Staff should be matched with their jobs to ensure that square and round pegs are put in their respective holes.

Performance management of staff and management of succession are hallmarks of a highly performing organisation.

Lastly, the CCN needs policies and procedures which ensure fairness, consistency and compliance with employment and other laws.

Mr Macharia is a principal lecturer at the Kenya Institute of Administration