Lately, Kenyans have been fed a rich and vulgar diet of scams, fraud, thievery, pillaging and outright plunder. Much of the pillaging has resulted in many of our key institutions being run down and decimated.
Reconstruction is not just of the brick and mortar kind. These institutions were built with an assortment of labour and skills over many years.
Those with long memories will remember how well Kenya Power and Lighting Company, under the stewardship of Julius Gecau (now deceased) and others, was run.
The same can be said for the (defunct) Nairobi City Council. Yes, they were arguably simpler and less complex outfits but, all the same, the principles of sound management were there.
Likewise, the running of the country is dependent on competent and honest people and well-functioning institutions.
The more there is, the greater the heights of achievement. Remember also the demands on these institutions grow as population and its demands increase.
If they are creaking under the strain or struggling to function now, what will they be like in, say, 2030-plus? Imagine Nairobi City County in 10 years if its run-down state continues!
Walking into Nairobi county offices today, one experiences a stuttering snail-like administration under siege. The relevant departments are there but the productivity is low — just as is the morale of the people manning them.
Obtaining the purported goods and services it purports to offer is often an exercise in futility; even getting a rate demand statement requires both dedication and patience. One can be in the bizarre and ludicrous situation of wanting to pay a levy but not knowing how much he should pay.
The city county is an example of an institution functioning at a fraction of its capacity. Kenya Power is another. But what we forget is that, over the years, the majority of institutions in the public sector have also been run down, cannibalised or even destroyed. And it is not just the public sector. A number of private sector institutions, too, have taken a battering.
The energy sector, with its various operations being directly controlled by the Department of Energy, is another.
This ‘State-captured’ sector is almost totally owned and controlled by the government with the exception of Kenya Power, which is half-owned by private shareholders.
Over the years, their institutional capacity has been literally emasculated to the extent that, in reality, they are lackeys of their parent ministry.
Many county governments have been consigned to the same fate. There is an additional factor here, which is that they are relatively new institutions inheriting what little was left of their local government predecessors.
Institution building needs time and effort and neither has happened.
The story is the same with many parastatals. The exceedingly vital Kenya Pipeline Company is mandated to transport our oil needs yet its operation has as many leakages as its own pipeline. The Kenya Forest Service has presided over a declining forest cover — from 10 per cent to 7.2 per cent.
The Kenya Ferry Services has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Pedestrians and drivers use its ferries only because they have no safer alternative.
What comes out clearly is that the appointing agency must not be the parent ministry and, indeed, must be delinked from and independent of it.
Their management and operations must be subject to strict professional rules and regulations and accountable to an independent board.
Institutional malaise or rot is not confined to government. It covers all — from the KTDA to the many saccos Kenyans have poured their billions into.
While the ongoing onslaught against corruption must continue, rehabilitate and reconstruct the institutions.
Ms Shaw is a public policy and economic analyst. [email protected]