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Sunday, May 6th, 2018

 

Unease in SRC over impending changes

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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Disquiet has hit the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) after President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2017, on Friday.

The Bill amends various laws, including the SRC Act, the Pensions Act and the Pharmacy and Poisons Act.

The amendments to the SRC Act makes commissioners full-time employees and gives the President the power to nominate the chairperson.

But there are concerns in the SRC on the legality of the move and the cost of implementing the amendments.

Commission employees are worried that the move to make the commissioners full-time employees could be challenged in court on the grounds that they exceed the number laid down in the Constitution.

Besides, the commission would need bigger office space to accommodate the commissioners and employ more staff for them. 

The SRC’s  11 members are appointed after being nominated by a  number of  institutions, including the Parliamentary Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Senate, the Defence Council, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, the Federation of Kenya Employers and a joint forum of professional bodies.

NINE MEMBERS

They serve for one, non-renewable term of six years. Recruitment is underway after the tenure of the first lot, led by Mrs Sarah Serem, ended last year.

While the nominating institutions are indicated in the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Act, the Constitution states that each commission should have a maximum of nine members.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed said there is no need to have full-time commissioners since their role is advisory.


Counties aiming to buy incinerators, microwaves for safer waste disposal

By NATION TEAM
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The Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu, seems to have got its medical waste disposal right.

On a visit to the  wards, one is sure to notice  the conspicuously labelled red, yellow and black waste bins.

The yellow is for “sharps only’’, red  for ‘soiled cotton swab and gloves’, while the black bin is for non-medical waste.

While this labelling might not mean much to the ordinary Kenyan, to  the health workers, they are life-changing.

The hospital’s Medical Superintendent, Dr Sam Oula, says that 10 years ago, they would dump everything into the same bin, but separating them makes their work easier, since some are fire-resitant.

The hospital produces close to 50-70kg of infectious and highly infectious waste per day. Each ward can produce about 0.2kg of waste per day, 15 per cent of which is infectious.

Since the hospital does not have its own incinerators, it outsources the services from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital three days a week.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the hospital, and the only thing buy is fuel since we use diesel to run the generator to burn the waste. This costs us about Sh1,000. We burn the waste three times a week,” Dr Oula said.

He adds: “We collaborate in many ways with the public hospital so they don’t really charge us but we must take care of the fuel.”

The ash from the incinerator is shovelled into a specially designed pit, whose walls are reinforced with concrete to prevent it from seeping into the environment and nearby water bodies.

The medic said the waste, if left lying around the hospital, provides a breeding ground for infections and diseases and poses a serious threat to those who come across it.

POLYTHENE BAGS

Dr Oula said  the government’s ban on  polythene bags made it more difficult for them to to dispose of the waste.

In Nakuru,  residents have for many years been faced with health risks posed by improper disposal of medical waste.

However, the purchase of a Sh90 million shredder and microwave that will process waste  for more than 20 health facilities in the region is set to end the woes.

The machine, donated by the national government in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), is expected to start operating this month.

Dr Joseph  Mburu, the Medical Superintendent of the Nakuru Level Five Hospital where the machine is installed, said staff will be trained on the right -way to handle  medical waste.

“The machine will burn the waste to ash. It will process 20 tonnes at ago. Already, we have staff who know how to operate it but we will train more,” Dr Mburu said.

The hospital serves more than five counties, including  Kericho, Baringo, Nyandarua, Samburu and Narok as a referral centre.

According to Dr Mburu, the shredder will be used be alongside an autoclave or microwave.

The shredder will  be used to destroy plastics and will increase the capacity  of disposing of waste mainly from laboratories, dental and medical research facilities, and  blood banks, among others, from more than 20 health facilities.

Others are expired chemicals  and drugs, contaminated  blood, surgical waste  and medical devices.

County Public Health officer Samuel King’ori said the county government had bought special trucks that will ferry the waste to Nakuru from Naivasha, Molo and other stations.

Previously, health facilities in the county like the Molo and Naivasha sub-county hospitals did not have proper waste disposal systems.

BURNING WASTE

Molo Sub-county was last month on the spot for burning its medical waste in an open dumpsite exposing residents to harmful emissions.

At the Naivasha Sub-county hospital, the incinerator previously used previously often broke down.

Meanwhile, Langalanga Health Centre had a small incinerator.

A report released by a health task force formed by Governor Lee Kinyanjui in October 2017, showed that most hospitals in the county lack proper waste disposal systems.

The task force, chaired by former Egerton University  Vice-Chancellor Prof James Tuitoek, found that various facilities have poor quality burning chambers which churn out partially burnt medical waste that is later buried in shallow pits.

The task force visited the health facilities in all the  county’s 55 wards and established that some hospitals were  burning or burying  medical waste, contrary to environmental and medical  ethics.

The team said residents risked contracting diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. It recommended that the county government invest in an effective  medical waste incinerator  to serve both public and private hospitals.

CHALLENGES

In 2016, six private hospitals in the county were put accused of dumping their waste at Gioto dumpsite in Nakuru town.

Last year, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said more than 60 per cent of public health facilities in rural areas were yet to comply with waste management regulations. 

Homa Bay County, for instance, had serious challenges, with some medical waste being dumped in the open. But in its health budget for the  2015/2016 and 2017/2018 financial years, the county allocated funds for renovating and building medical waste disposal units at the  referral hospital and its eight sub-county hospitals.

In Lamu, all major health facilities have  incinerators. County Public Health Officer in charge of waste management Haji Shibu said more than 10 incinerators have been installed in Mpeketoni, Faza, Witu, Mokowe, Lamu hospitals.

In Mombasa, Health Chief Officer Khadija Shikely said: “We have a large incinerator and shredder at the Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH), which we use to manage the waste,”  adding that Belgium recently donated a microwave to the hospital.


Recent judicial audit should have covered all sectors of court system

By NICHOLAS SUMBA
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Although the recent judicial audit report released by Chief Justice David Maraga is a reflection of the gains made in the Judiciary.

However, a lot more needs to be done to address the case backlog in the courts with the optimum target of hearing and determining cases within a year.

The report reflected general progress and milestones but certain aspects of the audit were not realistic. While the great achievements in the Court of Appeal should be appreciated, as it is now possible, even in Nairobi, for appeals to be determined within two years while it would take up to 10 years.

But that is not the case in the Nairobi Environment and Land Court, where getting a mention date, leave alone being granted a hearing date, is a tall order.

ADDITIONAL JUDGES

It is not understandable why this should be happening at a time when so many additional judges have progressively been appointed since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

In contrast, courts outside Nairobi have readily available hearing dates at short notice.

It is, for example, much easier to obtain a hearing date in Machakos, Migori or Wote and have your case heard at the earliest opportunity than in Nairobi, where a mention date any earlier than four months could be a great achievement.

A proper audit should, therefore, be carried out to address the disparity in terms of allocation of judges to this important court, if that is the cause of the problem in Nairobi, so that additional judges are posted.

However, in the Murang’a High Court, there were no dates in the Family registry as at March 2018 — not even a mention date for the year — while the diary for 2019 is yet to be opened and no dates can be given. All cases are, therefore, left in abeyance.

APPELLATE COURTS

The report was, however, reflective of the true status of Appellate Courts. In Malindi, for instance, many a time appeals are heard and determined within the year they are filed. It should be appreciated that this has always happened when there has all along been only one Bench of three judges.

Malindi could, perhaps, be the second-busiest Court of Appeal station, after Nairobi, as it handles appeals from the entire Coast region, including the port city of Mombasa.

The Judiciary should also direct more attention to improving and making typed proceedings readily available as that is a major hindrance to the hearing of appeals, both in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Records of appeals to the said courts can never be ready for filing unless typed proceedings are available.

The most affected of all the courts is the Chief Magistrate’s Commercial Courts, Milimani, and the Nairobi High Court, where it can at times take years to obtain proceedings.

A system should be in place either to have proceedings typed as the case progresses or even allow advocates to copy handwritten proceedings for typing in their chambers and submit them for certification.

The downside to the latter option, however, is the risk of inaccuracy in capturing the correct handwritten record and/or mischief from parties.

Overally, there seems to be a shortage of typing staff, considering that some of the secretaries who do typing work are the same ones expected to undertake administrative, routine office duties, including attending to their bosses — the magistrates and judges.

The awards given by the CJ to the magistrates, judges and courts in various categories will, however, go a long way in creating healthy competition among judicial officers, in turn enhancing their performance.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court, being a creation of the 2010 Constitution, has become a new active area of practice for which litigation seems to be increasing rapidly. It is, therefore, encouraging that judges in the court were among the award recipients.


A cry for UK’s Windrush migrants

By CHEGE MBITIRU
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In her address to a recent gathering of Commonwealth leaders in London, Queen Elizabeth as titular head of the 53-nation organizations had a noble wish.

It’s that by sticking together, the Commonwealth “will secure…a world where (its) generosity and spirit can bring…gentle touch of healing and hope to all.”

A week ago, a promising politician, Ms Amber Rudd, resigned as Home Secretary (Cabinet) because Her Majesty’s noble wish was under assault in her backyard.

The Windrush Generation scandal raged. The architect is Rudd’s predecessor, Theresa May, now prime minister. She could only say she was “genuinely sorry.”

The “generation” comprises of persons and descendants of such who, by invitation, moved to Britain from parts of the empire to fill in the labour pool depleted by Britain’s World War II losses.

AFRICAN SLAVES

When a British troop carrier, Empire Windrush, docked in Kingston, Jamaica, 492 descendants of African slaves hopped on board, arriving in the UK on June 22, 1948. The wave of Commonwealth immigrants had begun.

So, the Windrush Generation to those persons and descendants of such between 1948 and 1971 when entry got tight and those already in were granted UK citizenship. By historical co-incidence, majority of immigrants from the Caribbean were black.

Some of the immigrants were entered in parents’ passports or documents identifying them as UK “protected persons.” Once grown and had children, Heck! They all considered themselves British.

Additionally, galore bureaucratic bungling existed. For example, Commonwealth immigrants weren’t provided with documents saying they had been granted citizenship. Efforts to ensure they knew of paper work they needed weren’t made. Worse, as late as 2010 landing slips were being destroyed.

IMMIGRANTS

Enter Ms May’s six-year tenure as home secretary. A large section of White Britain loathed a surge of immigrants. The Commonwealth, let alone the Caribbean, had nothing to do with it. The European Union had.

In 2013, Ms  May decided to create a “hostile atmosphere” for illegal immigrants by requiring proof of citizenship to access jobs, driving licences, state benefits, health care, accommodation, ad infinatum.

Too much attention has been paid to people who originated from the Caribbean. However, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) says similar cases of Australian, Canadian, South African, Indian and Pakistan-born immigrants exist.

But as Satbir Singh, JCWI chief executive told the BBC, it’s “not likely you will be asked to demonstrate your immigration status” if you were “white and of European origin.”

Because of the media uproar beginning in November and dismay by representatives of Commonwealth Caribbean nations where some long-term residents of Britain—tax payers, ad infinitum—have even been deported to, Her Majesty’s government is playing “penance.”

Before packing up, Ms Rudd pledged remedies. However, there yet a word on fixing what the real issue is: phoney British multi-racialism.


Prevention best bet against lifestyle diseases

By THUKU WA GICHINGA
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Five years ago, then-Nyeri County Executive for Health Charles Githinji made a revelation that shocked local leaders and residents.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nyeri had the highest diabetes prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, at 12.6 per cent — more than double the national rate of 5.6 per cent and well above the 8.5 per cent global average.

Diabetes, specifically type 2, and other lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cancer and heart and kidney diseases have become the leading cause of premature death among Kenyans. A 2016 survey by Broadway Bakery Ltd revealed that every Kenyan had lost a family member, friend or colleague to one of these diseases.

Quite worrying, from WHO’s statistics, is that the majority of victims are aged 30 to 70. This age bracket accounts for most families’ breadwinners and comprises the most productive segment of our society.

It’s encouraging that health ranks high on our national and county governments’ priority lists. A lot of resources are going towards fighting lifestyle diseases with facilities such as cancer treatment, dialysis and ultra-sound scanning machines finding their way into more and more hospitals. But these efforts do not seem to match the increasing demand for them.

KIDNEY DISEASE

Take kidney disease, for example. Patients queue for dialysis because the demand for the service outstrips the available machines. The procedure is expensive and financially draining since it has to be undertaken over a long period or even for life. For many, transplant is out of the question due to the high cost and stringent organ donor requirements.  

Prevention is better than cure. This simple but often-ignored statement could be the most effective weapon in the war against lifestyle diseases. Whereas a lot of money is budgeted for building and equipping hospitals, little is dedicated to preventive measures.

Research by the National Kidney Foundation of America shows the two leading causes of kidney failure (end stage renal disease, ESRD) as diabetes type 2 and high blood pressure. Besides, advanced diabetes can lead to stroke, heart failure, blindness, amputation and paralysis while uncontrolled hypertension can cause stroke and heart failure, among others.

If these conditions are diagnosed early and managed well, patients can live near-normal lives without complications. Then why are so many succumbing to related complications?

The ‘hit-and-run’ annual awareness initiatives are ineffective. In most cases, these events are spearheaded by NGOs and volunteers. There is little — if any — input by the national and county governments yet they should be the drivers of these campaigns.

Blood sugar and pressure tests cost very little. Out of their health budgets, the governments should consider investing more in testing kits and deploying more community health workers to ensure the most vulnerable (if possible, all) Kenyans are tested regularly. If detected early, patients should be taught how to adjust their lifestyles, manage their conditions, avoid complications and live normal, productive lives.

Cancer screening may be a bit more expensive but cannot be compared to the financial, physical, social, emotional and mental cost of treatment. Those with a family history of cancer should especially be encouraged to go for regular testing.

This would mean shorter queues of people seeking expensive treatment, easing of pressure on hospitals and ultimately, a healthier society.

The Health ministry must revise its strategy and invest more in prevention — which would, in the long term, give better returns than pouring money into expensive equipment.


Khaniri calls for key election reforms before 2022

By DERICK LUVEGA
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By SAMWEL OWINO
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Vihiga Senator George Khaniri yesterday said that National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga will not participate in the 2022 polls unless electoral reforms are undertaken.

Mr Khaniri equally asked his supporters to boycott the 2022 elections if the reforms needed to ensure electoral justice are not put in place.

Speaking at Mulele in Sabatia, Vihiga County, Mr Khaniri warned that the country has been home to rigged elections since 2007.

This was the time for the injustice to be corrected before any election is held in the country, he added.

“I will not vote in 2022 if reforms are not implemented. I call on my people not to vote too if the reforms that will ensure justice in elections are not done,” said Mr Khaniri.

The vocal senator, who has set his eyes on the Vihiga governorship, noted that justice in elections is always done when the rightful winner is declared.

RECOMMENDATIONS

He claimed that Mr Odinga won the elections of 2007, 2013 and 2017 but was rigged out.

Mr Odinga is currently working with President Uhuru Kenyatta to unite Kenyans and correct the wrongs that have bedevilled the country for years.

And speaking separately, Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said electoral reforms would guarantee the independence of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). “The need for electoral reforms is the view of everyone and I am in support,” said Mr Osotsi  at Broadpark Hotel in Mbale.

“Recommendations by the Kriggler Commission were not implemented. We need to go back to the recommendations,” said Mr Osotsi.

The two called on Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi to join ODM party leader Raila Odinga in the call of constitutional reforms as he will be a beneficiary.

The two leaders told Mr Mudavadi not to listen to misleading information from some of his advisors who are only driven by personal gain but not the bigger national picture.


Man shoots neighbour over parking in Kisumu

By JUSTUS OCHIENG’
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A Kisumu contractor shot his neighbour in a dispute over parking in Milimani, Kisumu.

Police say the contractor, Mr Fuad Yusuf, could lose his gun licence after last week’s incident.

Mr Yusuf, who is linked to Nairobi Logistics and Construction Company Ltd, allegedly shot a Mr Isaack, who works with the Henry Jackson Foundation, an international organisation working in partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu.

Nyanza regional police boss Leonard Katana told the Nation that Mr Yusuf had been arrested and investigations launched.

Mr Katana said they were investigating the circumstances under which the shooting occurred. 

Neighbours told the Nation that  Mr Yusuf was enraged when he found Mr Isaack’s car parked in front of his vehicle.

“He said he was getting late and when Isaack came out of his house, the two started quarrelling before Mr Yusuf went for his gun,” a neighbour said. 

“He came back from his house in a huff and shot Isaack around the shoulder.” he added.

Mr Yusuf told the Nation that his issue was already being handled by the police.

“Please contact the police for more information on the matter,” he said on the phone.

On Friday, Mr Erick Ndenga, a team leader at Henry Jackson Foundation where Mr Isaack works said they could not divulge more information regarding the shooting incident.

Mr Isaack has since been discharged from Aga Khan hospital in Kisumu where he had been treated for four days.

Mr Katana cautioned licensed firearm holders to adhere to the set standards and avoid misuse of their guns. 


Court to rule on Sh5bn duty stamp tender row 

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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The Court of Appeal will this week dash or revive the hopes of a Swiss company fighting to retain a multibillion shilling tender for tracking, tracing and accounting of exercisable goods and duty.

The Sh4.8 billion tender awarded to SICPA Securities Sol. SA of Switzerland was quashed in March by High Court judge John Mativo.

But while arguing for the suspension of an order quashing the tender, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said the Kenya Revenue Authority risks losing more than Sh27.68 billion in the current financial year if the decision is not reversed.

COMPETITION

While delivering the March ruling, Justice Mativo said the direct procurement method, which was adopted by the government, restricted the scope of the principle of competitiveness. He said the law expressly bars the adoption of such a method if the intention is to defeat competition.

Justice Mativo added that before such a method is adopted, the procuring entity must involve the public in its decision to opt for direct procurement. The judge further said the Auditor-General had noted that the tender committee terminated the second contract on the premise that it could not cover the extended scope of excisable goods provided in Legal Notice published in June 2013.

In the appeal, however, Mr Rotich said besides losing revenue targets, the country risks reversing the gains made in the fight against illicit trade in tobacco and alcoholic products.

The CS said Justice Mativo did not appreciate that the integrated control and tracking system known as the Excisable Goods Management System is an information technology tool for tracking, tracing and accounting for all exercisable goods and duty.

The e-tax system affixes a stamp to track and trace each bottle or package coming off a production line.

Mr Rotich had argued that the government had before relied on a manual method of affixing excise and revenue stamps on excisable goods that was only limited to tobacco, wines, spirits, and beer but, there was rampant counterfeiting of stamps that led to under-declaring volumes by manufacturers.

Justices Asike Makhandia, Daniel Musinga and Fatuma Sichale will decide whether to suspend the High Court’s decision pending the appeal.

KRA argued that excise tax is charged not only on goods that can pose harm to the consumer but also on products that can raise significant revenue, hence the introduction of the tax to the  goods in question.

Activist Okiya Omtatah moved to court last year arguing that KRA had published a notice on October 3, 2017 on excise stamps on bottled water, juices, soda, other non-alcoholic beverages and cosmetics. The duty was to take effect  from November 1, 2017.


Keter tells Kenya Power to stabilise charges

By PETER MBURU
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Kenyans might see less fluctuations in their  electricity charges, after Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter directed that they be harmonised to ensure stability.

Mr Keter ordered the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to ensure Kenya Power charges in the form of tokens and other modes of domestic consumption stop varying every time users purchase electricity.

The order came amid mounting criticism of Kenya Power by Kenyans who accuse it of defrauding them.

While addressing complaints by electricity consumers in a session in Nakuru town last week, ERC director-general Pavel Oimeke said from July the cost of electricity per unit will be the same across the board.

“We are going to harmonise the charges that are in domestic consumers’ tax category to ensure that when they purchase their electricity, the cost per unit does not vary. We are at an advanced stage and by July they will be stable,” Mr Oimeke said.

He said the government wants to maintain the lifeline tariff, so that lower-rung consumers get a discounted rate.

He termed the current mode of electricity payment as complicated.

Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretary general Stephen Mutoro supported Kenyans in their criticism of Kenya Power and called for a stabilised mode of payment for power consumers.

“The current charges system needs to be changed as consumers have complained a lot. We support the move to harmonise the charges,” said Mr Mutoro.


Science week good industrial goal step

By EDITORIAL
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Kenya’s quest for industrial status by 2030 will be determined by its investment in research, science and technology. So far, this area has received minimal support. It is a fact that the government’s budgetary allocation to research, science and technology hardly amounts to one per cent of the national budget, which is the internationally acceptable threshold.

The most successful nations — in particular, the recent entrants to the club of industrialisation such as Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea — achieved such a feat essentially through massive investment and aggressive pursuit of research, science and technology.

INNOVATION WEEK

Against this backdrop, the convening of a national science and innovation week, starting Monday, signals an encouraging development in the promotion of science and technology. In broad terms, the week offers opportunity to showcase new developments arising from research and making them accessible to the general populace.

This is important since science and innovation should be made relevant to the people; they should respond, and provide answers, to the practical problems and concerns of the citizens. In essence, it is a climbdown from abstraction to the world of reality.

Even so, the science week should inspire other practical actions. First, it should reinforce the drive for curriculum change to put emphasis on science, engineering and technology to get more youngsters on board since they are the critical actors who will spearhead the industrialisation agenda in the next two decades.

DEVELOPMENT

Secondly, science and innovation should be anchored in the local needs to guarantee sustainable development. For the converse, where science and innovation are pursued for academic’s sake, it never helps a nation. Third, we must transit from mere exhibition to scaling up and commercialising innovations to earn revenues.

Finally, this is the time to examine policy and legal structures that guide science and innovation with a view to fine-tuning them to create a conducive environment and also protect innovators.

More fundamentally, we must root for increased funding to promote research, science and innovation.