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Address bias in top public appointments

Friday August 16 2019

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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The Constitution places a heavy premium on diversity because it is integral to national stability. All citizens have equal rights to jobs and public resources. This explains the huge discontent when a segment of the population is favoured and others excluded.

Precisely, this is at the core of the creation of counties and allocation of equitable resources to them. It is an attempt to create a fair playing ground and giving every region and corner of the country a chance to benefit from the national resources.

This week, various reports tabled in Parliament on diversity at the workplace exposed gross regional imbalances in terms of employment in key State corporations. Some of the corporations in question are the National Social Security Fund, National Hospital Insurance Fund and the Kenya National Examinations Council, which are dominated by five ethnic groups. Not that this is new. Similar reports have been tabled in Parliament in the past. Kenya Revenue Authority and the public universities are some of the institutions that  have been identified as having skewed ethnic representation.

In 2015, the government published the Diversity Policy for State Ministries and Agencies, with the express aim of redressing historical imbalances largely occasioned by political machinations. Four years later, the discrepancies continue demonstrating inaction on socio-economic aberrations that spawn animosity.

The reason presidential elections are fiercely contested is that ascendancy to that high office is equated to access to State largesse. Those appointed to the prime positions bring in their kin in the sickening belief that it is their time to eat and to create a false sense of security. Conversely, those left out become extremely resentful and easily resort to violence at the slightest of excuses.

Arising out of this, the government resolved to pursue an open and competitive process of appointing individuals to crucial positions, among them heads of parastatals. But that has not cured the malaise. Positions are advertised and candidates interviewed but the appointments still remain skewed because the processes are manipulated to achieve certain parochial interests. Disparities therefore continue unabated.

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For a start, we ask the government to periodically publish a complete list of individuals occupying top positions in ministries and agencies so that the public can debate the geographical, ethnic and gender representation. Access to public information is a right. Next, the government needs to enforce affirmative action to end discrimination, with emphasis on equitable representation. Which is not to sacrifice competence and experience.

Rationalisation of the composition of the employees is an imperative. We must end the historical injustice where State jobs are only open to a few ethnic groups yet everyone pays taxes.

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