Governor Joseph ole Lenku, who was sworn in for a second and final term on Thursday, has given a stern warning to county staff that it will no longer be business as usual. We wholeheartedly support him.
Indeed, the governor now has an excellent opportunity to crack the whip, and for good reason. We acknowledge that the realities of seeking re-election may have stopped him from taking tough action in his first term; his final term now provides that perfect opportunity.
Indeed, like most other counties, Kajiado faces acute problems of service delivery: Public servants who are rarely in their offices, a culture of patronage, a kickbacks mentality, and a don’t-care attitude that is at the root of the rot in the public service throughout the country.
To effectively deal with these problems, the governor will require nerves of steel that can withstand the enemies he will likely create. His resolve will be sorely tested, but he must live up to his words and crack the whip. If he does not do so in the coming weeks, his words will have been interpreted as empty rhetoric and it will be business as usual for the next five years.
We recognize the difficulties. There are those who have become accustomed to strong words and little action from one administration after another. When they hear warnings, they say within themselves that this, too, will come to pass. It is upon Lenku to prove them wrong.
For far too long, the people of Kajiado have been treated like vermin: They have some of the worst possible roads in the whole of Kenya; there are inadequate health facilities and even those that are available are not sufficiently manned and equipped; schoolchildren have to make do with overcrowded classrooms, no libraries and sometimes no desks; and agricultural extension work is all but non-existent.
The county cannot be expected to attain its projected development milestones in such circumstances. Despite numerous development blueprints since independence, there is little to show on the ground. If anything, a continuous stream of empty promises has created apathy on the part of the population, who have come to expect little from their leaders and civil servants save regular harassment for bribes by county and national government officials.
Changing the prevailing negative culture will take a strong, no-nonsense stand right from the top. It will take steadfastness of resolve to persuade all stakeholders that this is not just a kneejerk, temporary clean-up that will fade after a couple of weeks. It will take stern action against those who ignore the writing on the wall for others to take the cue that they must either shape up or ship out.
But all that is hardly enough. Systemic problems call for a total overhaul of existing systems and modes of governance. Computerisation of processes, acquisition of the latest technologies, staff training, and better compensation for labour are all necessary. This is in addition to streamlining existing procurement and payment processes to ensure easy access to tools and servicing of equipment. Delays in staff salaries will have to be made a thing of the past; it will be foolhardy for the county administration to demand performance while delaying salaries for months.
Naturally, there are factors that fall beyond the power of the county leadership, such as delays in remittances from the national to the county coffers. This calls for a deliberate policy by the county to raise sufficient revenues on its own to sustain key services and maintain the momentum.
We call upon all stakeholders to support the resolve by Lenku to rejuvenate county services, and ask for cooperation from the staff and all involved. The season of politicking is over; it is time to open a new, bold chapter for the sake of development in Kajiado.