BWIRE: Makali taskforce must deliver on promise and not get lost in bureaucracy


BWIRE: Makali taskforce must deliver on promise and not get lost in bureaucracy
David Makali chairs a meeting of the Taskforce for improvement of Government Information and Public Communications functions. PHOTO| COURTESY

That the Government has appointed a task force headed by veteran journalist David Makali to relook government communication and access to information is welcome news and is long overdue.

Provision of clear, timely and continuous information flow to the public is a critical aspect of governance anchored in the Constitution and a major factor in national development.

Times are changing and the changed environment calls for new ways of doing business. It’s laudable that the Government has realised this and is working on the official communication strategy.

Hopefully and as already promised during their inauguration by ICT CS Joe Mucheru, the team will come up with a document that has strong practical and current approaches to government communication including provisions of pro-active disclosure of information, official communication channels, frequency of Government interaction with citizens, and must carry obligations on the part of the media on national public interest issues.

There is goodwill from the Government and the team, which is highly competent and diverse, should quickly do Kenyans the favour, of producing the strategy.

This coming after the enactment of the right to access information law and executive order that seemed to re-introduce the place of public information officers through their parent ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in terms of information gathering, packaging and dissemination is very encouraging news.

Government communication is a critical aspect of governance, and is more than just media or public relations. At one stage, government communication had become so scattered, fragmented and privatised to a level, that getting official communication is impossible.

The same fragmented approach is replicated at the County Governments; directors of Governors Press, Directors of Communication, Communication officers, Public Relations Officers and a host of other players.

The lack of an official way of communication to the public by government has seen consistent protocol goofs, conflicting information from and about Government, inadequate communication within and without Government, slow flow of communication, lack of basic communication tools and equipment within government and generally poor projection of the government in terms of image.

It had become very hard to differentiate political party information and Government information as the two seem to have been merged. The Government voice especially on what it’s doing has been lost and many times even those working for government have responded to issues touching on the Government through the political parties/affiliation prism or individual social media platforms.

In this era of the Constitutional requirements of Articles 33, 34 and 35, information sharing, and for this matter credible and factual information released in a timely manner is central to managers including those in Government.

The Government of Kenya is a signatory to the Open Government Partnership, and has many times indicated its commitment to open governance and adhering to the Constitution.

Big Government projects including the big four agenda and the various national security related interventions have shown one thing in common: We need a coordinated government response and information sharing strategy, and especially in this era of misinformation and propaganda..

Indeed the government has been applying the minimalist approach to sharing information, making it very difficult for understanding government operations, procedures and activities.

This has on many occasions isolated Government from people, and the search for information, especially by the media, when frustrated, ends in speculative and uninformed discourses, which is dangerous for the country.

Makali, Robin Njogu, Noella, Udoto, Jane and the rest of the team, we need that government communication and information sharing strategy like yesterday, especially in light of the support the big four agenda requires from the media and members of the public.

The Writer works at the Media Council of Kenya as the Programmes Manager 

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