BWIRE: Kenya slowly becoming a knee-jerk State
By Victor Bwire
Lack of consistency and predictability in policy formulation and pronouncement seems a permanent feature of our way of doing things in the country; which unfortunately is costing us a lot.
The haphazard and spur of the moment manner in which the country is dealing with policy matters and divided approach to government direction is worrying, least of all on national matters including the big four.
While taking independent position and critical review of government directives is very welcome and desirable, it raises a fundamental issue about consultation and collective responsibility from the executive, both at the national and county level.
It’s encouraging to see for example the leader of the majority in Government, chief whip and leader of the minority, even within the handshake politics opposing the directive by the KPA and KRA over SGR on freights goods, but leaves a lot of room for speculation on what level of consultations or lack of it that goes on within the Executive before such decisions are made.
It exposes gaps within the government decision-making, and even poor governance when such policy decisions are withdrawn immediately people raise issues with such moves. And there is the little matter of the mass rapid transport system for Nairobi.
While public policy making is wrought with such hazards, many times good policy are withdrawn because of political and other considerations, denying the public the opportunity to benefit, many times it’s because of poor or lack of planning or arrogance on the part of the policy makers who want to force things.
Examples are bound; the competency-based curriculum, Mau evictions, the Teachers Service Commission over management of teachers issues, ERC blaming KRA over prices in the energy sector, SRC and Parliament over salaries and many others.
The budget making processes seems stuck in the same quagmire. There was the removal of road blocks from our roads, which is gradually being ignored and the pronouncements on caner following the death of many Kenyans as a result of the disease. Immediately such tragedy happens, a lot of impulsive reactions follow and will die long before you notice.
This manner of making policies and laws, or making roadside policy pronouncements without the backing of relevant frameworks, is exposing the country to a lot of mishaps.
It’s very embarrassing when good policies and moves by the government or public agencies are thwarted or frustrated simply because of poor handling, especially in the communication aspect. Consistency, professional message development and communication are critical to the success and adoption and or support for such public policies.
Things must be thought out well and clearly, timed and primed to get the most public understanding and support and above all, the principle of collective responsibility given priority in matters government policy.
Consultation within public agencies is of paramount importance in pushing government agenda ahead, to avoid duplication and silo building, wastage of public resources and minimise public embarrassment. Impulsive policy-making approach and kneejerk reactions to national issues is very dangerous.
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.
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.
A lot is happening in terms of development in Kenya, but is being mired in the many small mistakes that border on lack of consultations and common approach to issues by those in the executive.
The writer is the Head of Media Development and Strategy, the Media Council of Kenya
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