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Monday, May 14th, 2018

 

Puzzle of unsolved murders of sex workers in Nairobi

By STELLA CHERONO
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Her body lay on the cold slab of Nairobi’s City Mortuary. Her bulky blonde wig covered part of her face.

In life, her body had been battered by alcoholism, drug abuse and violence that sex workers endure. Now in death and without make-up, all the ugly marks of her suffering on her face and hands were exposed for the world to see.

Only her thighs, which were barely covered by her off-shoulder ribbed pink dress, seemed to have survived the wear and tear.

She had been booked in by police as ‘an unknown African female adult’, but her name was Anita Nyambura.

Her body had been retrieved from a city hotel room at noon on March 26, another commercial sex worker killed in Nairobi.

 Hers was the sixth body in the list of victims of suspected homicide received at the facility that day.

KOINANGE STREET

It had taken her colleagues a whole morning to figure out that she had died. The last one to see her alive had parted with her at midnight, when Nyambura got a client on Koinange Street near the Cardinal Otunga Building. Her phone was not going through since dawn.  “I had been calling her in vain because we usually meet, freshen up and leave for home together,” her friend said.

A call from another friend who was coincidentally inquiring about Nyambura’s welfare aroused suspicion since she had heard that a call girl had been killed at a hotel in town. “We decided to go and check the body at the mortuary, and we positively identified her. Police suspect she died from strangulation,” she said.

Outside the mortuary, more women arrived, taking turns to view the body.

“She was murdered,” some whispered to one another as they tried to inquire from her friend the details of the man who picked Nyambura  or  the registration number of his car. But she actually knew nothing, and if her face had any expression, it was one of confusion and self-blame. Nyambura’s death came just a few weeks after that of another sex worker, who was killed in Kayole. The woman was picked by a client at 11pm and her body was later found in a fodder plantation in Ruai.

FREE TO KILL

A number of other women have been killed in Pangani, Nairobi West and Lang’ata. No arrests have been made, and police are tight-lipped on the progress of investigations, if any.

In 2016 alone, 25 female sex workers were killed in Kenya, according to a report by the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (Keswa) and Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme. The report was presented to the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva in October last year.

Dubbed ‘Aren’t We Also Women’, it detailed accounts of all the murders of sex workers in Kenya, violence against them and discrimination from the society, health  facilities and family.

In most instances, the suspects are still prowling the streets in the dark, free to kill again, and again.  Keswa says the killing of sex workers has become common.  The lucky ones who survive attacks sustain long-term physical and psychological injuries.

According to the alliance,  some of the attackers are fellow sex workers who think newcomers are encroaching on their territory.  Others are police, county askaris and business people who feel the women give a bad name to streets in front of their premises.

STRIPPED NAKED

A reformed sex worker interviewed by Nation in Mlolongo said in one incident, a sex worker was attacked by three colleagues on Koinange Street, stripped naked and an umbrella inserted in her vagina.  “In some streets, new girls have to pay money to be allowed to operate there. If you don’t, you are beaten up,” she said.

Purity Mwende, a sex worker, says they also risk contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

On Thursday, April 19, Nation experienced first-hand as four police officers accompanying city council askaris drove along the streets, arresting sex workers and bundling them into a car. The vehicle was eventually parked at the intersection of Yatta Road and Racecourse Road.

One of the sex workers, as we later came to know, called Amara Atieno, 23, who said she was a student at the University of Nairobi, was thrown out of the van with blows and kicks. The law enforcement officers claimed she had been rude to them.

“They asked us to pay Sh500 each. Today, I have not had any client and so I could not raise that amount. When I told them, they pushed me out of the car. They have even taken my handbag which contains my identity card, my clothes and other things.  I had to use a boda boda to follow them so they could give me back my belongings,” she said.

The vehicle from Kamukunji Police Station, was parked at one spot for hours as those who had been arrested including hawkers and drunkards  were asked to pay for their freedom.

“I have been a commercial sex worker for three years. I am a student and I just have to do this because I have no money. I also have no one to depend on as my mother who lives in Ramba in Uriri is sickly,” she said.

She added that her father died seven years ago, when she was still in high school.

Amara said she has a two-year-old daughter, and that she also has to provide for her two brothers and sister. Her daughter, she said, is a product of a man who had promised to marry her, and get her off the streets.  “He later changed his mind and I had to go back to doing this job. I have nothing else to do. I cannot find a decent job and I need  cash. I do not like what I am doing. There are so many dangers. I have heard about sex workers who have been killed. I have watched fellow sex workers being beaten, some being raped, others are drugged and left in  hotel rooms,” she said.

SERIAL KILLER

Nyambura’s killing rekindles memories of Philip Onyancha, a self-confessed serial killer who was accused of killing 19 sex workers and drinking their blood.

App launched

Recently, a member of the Finnish Parliament, Anna Kontula launched a security application called the Artemis Umbrella meant to help sex workers to alert their friends whenever they are in danger or distress.

Ms Kontula said the idea of the app came to her mind when she visited Nairobi in 2016 and met sex workers.

“I realised that even though the sex workers were in a tough spot with the legal system and suffered stigma attached to the work and poverty, they all had  smart phones, which could be used as security resource,” she told the Global network of Sex Work.  The application, whose name is derived from the goddess Artemis of the Ancient Greek mythology, contains an alarm button that sends an alert about one’s  location.

Nation established that sex workers are paid anything between Sh200 and Sh5,000 per encounter depending on where they operate and the class of clients they have.

The National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP) says sex workers are the population at higher risk of HIV infections. They account for more than 30 per cent of new annual HIV infections in Kenya.

According to a NASCOP report, Kenya had 136,675 sex workers in 2016. According to the statistics, one in every three sex workers is infected with HIV, making it the highest reported HIV prevalence of any group in Kenya.

“There have been interventions like the provision of condoms to us, but sometimes, some clients violently refuse to use them,” a sex worker who preferred anonymity said.

Some sex workers said it was hard for them to access Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, Prep, and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, Pep drugs meant to reduce the chances of contracting HIV, because most clinics sell them expensively.

Sex workers interviewed by  Nation said they were raped regularly, but it was hard to press charges against the attackers, even when they are known to them.

“When you go to hospital, the nurses mistreat you because they have this notion that you got what you wanted. The question of whether it was consensual or not does not apply. Once they know you are a sex worker, they generally assume that you were willing,” one of them said.

PENAL CODE

The Kenyan Penal Code penalises prostitution, the aiding of prostitution, and the solicitation of prostitution. It however, without elucidation, differentiates the punishment for men and women involved in commercial sex work.

Sec 154 states, “Every woman who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution, or who is proved to have, for the purpose of gain, exercised control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute in such a manner as to show that she is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with any person, or generally, is guilty of a felony.”

Although the penal code also penalises the running of brothels and spells severe punishment for detaining a person against his or her will in a brothel, or for the purposes of unlawful sex, sex workers said they are usually the ones on the receiving end.  The said brothel owners, mostly men, go scot free.


Pastor James Ng’ang’a victim’s kin fears for his life

By ERIC WAINAINA
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The father in-law to Mercy Njeri, a woman who was killed in a road crash which televangelist James Ng’ang’a was acquitted of causing, says his life is in danger.

Mr Peter Ndung’u, on Monday morning reported at Tigoni Police Station that he fears for his life after unknown people broke into his home at Murengeti village, in Limuru on Sunday during the day, ransacked all the rooms and left without stealing anything.

The raiders, he said, jumped over the perimeter fence before breaking the doors to gain entry into the house between 10 am and 2pm when he and his family were in church.

“It appears like they were looking for a specific thing because after turning everything upside down, they left without taking anything,” Mr Ndung’u said.

TOOK PHOTOS

Mr Ndung’u, said he reported the matter to the police who visited his home, took photos and also recorded statements from family members.

According to Mr Ndung’u, days before the raid, he had noticed strange people trailing him and though he was already apprehensive of his safety, he did not report to the police.

“New faces have been greeting me in the streets and I have also noticed motorcycle riders around my home, mostly at night which is unusual because my house is at a private area,” he said.

CASE TERMINATED

Mr Ndung’u said though he has no evidence to connect the happenings to the accident case, he said they only started only after the case was terminated.

“There is nothing else that I do that could lead to such activities, I am just a farmer. All these started after the ruling of the accident case and I would want the police to investigate the matter and to establish any connection,” he said.

After the ruling, which the family has rejected, Mr Ndung’u, in an interview with NTV, said he had rejected approaches from emissaries claiming to be from Pastor Ng’ang’a for an out of court settlement.


Tough questions for Sicily Kariuki over Sh9bn NYS theft

By JOHN KAMAU
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Sicily Kariuki was supposed to inspire fresh hope after her predecessor in the Youth docket, the powerful Anne Waiguru, resigned in the wake of a Sh791 million scandal at the National Youth Service.

Instead, investigators say, some Sh9 billion likely disappeared under her watch — which will be a blow to the soft-speaking Cabinet Secretary for Health who, for two years, was in charge of the Public Service docket.

While she exhibited some exuberance upon taking over the youth docket, which had been hived off from the Devolution ministry to Public Service, Ms Kariuki had promised to seal loopholes that had allowed some obscure but ruthless fly-by-night companies squirrel away hundreds of millions of shillings from NYS coffers for services they never delivered.

The companies survived on a network of allies both inside and outside the government, although it was not clear who was at the pinnacle of this deft scheme hatched to steal billions from government coffers on a pharaonic scale.

Officials at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations believe they have uncovered the networks involved, and sources told the Nation on Monday that renowned tenderpreneurs are set to be arrested in the coming weeks.

“We are coming close to the zero hour,” said the source.

Ms Kariuki on Monday remained tight-lipped on the scandal, which has pushed her under the spotlight as the then CS in charge, even as details emerged on how dummy companies were created to facilitate fraud that today eclipses the previous NYS scandal that saw Ms Waiguru, now the Kirinyaga governor, resign in a cloud of scandal citing “poor health” and “following my doctor’s advice”.

Calls and texts to her mobile number were not answered the whole day and by the time we went to press. The questions we sent to her sought to clear the air on what she knew about the Sh9 billion scandal, what she did to seal the loopholes, and why this happened.

PUBLIC MONEY

In 2016 she had been asked the same questions by a local TV station, and she said: “I came into an institution that was riddled with a lot of shame and burden of proving that Kenya is able to overcome corruption, an institution where it was common knowledge that public money had been misappropriated. I was expected to turn this into hope; to put in structures to interpret the vision of the President.”

She said that when she walked into the ministry, she found that “financial systems and structures were inadequate, (and that) the (NYS) project was extremely ambitious given it had a weak foundation”.

Ms Kariuki told the TV station that she had asked President Kenyatta to allow her not to concentrate on what had gone wrong “because the other arms of government were already running the investigations”. Thus, she only interrogated the structures — and she said as much — rather than what had happened at the NYS.

When she took office on December 18, 2016, she promised to end graft at the National Youth Service, and in November 2016 told a recruits parade: “We have made every effort that is humanly possible within the time I have been in office to put in place measures that would ensure that money which belongs to these young people does not end up with a few people.”

Ms Kariuki had walked into a ministry where cartels reigned supreme, and when she appeared before the National Assembly Public Investment Committee on March 2016 — on the theft of Sh180 million from Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) — she said that a lot of cleaning up needed to be done.

“From where I sit, I require the full support of the leadership to tackle the mess, including dealing with cartels,” she said.

On the pending bills, which are now at the heart of the current scandal, Ms Kariuki had first frozen the payments and appointed an “independent internal team” to verify them. The team, the CS told a local station two years ago, isolated all the bills which were not in question and paid them.

The team was supposed to verify all other payments with questionable paperwork, and how this process turned out to be another scandal is what the investigators are now dealing with as more siphoning took place under her watch.


PAC summons Public Service ministry, NYS officials over loss of Sh9bn

By DAVID MWERE
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Public Service Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo and a number of top ministry officials will be interrogated by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee following the loss of Sh9 billion from the National Youth Service (NYS).

Also expected before the watchdog committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi is NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai, and Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who was at the helm of the ministry when the scandal began in 2016.

The NYS is now a department of the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, after it was transferred from the Ministry of Devolution in 2015. The ministry was then headed by Ms Anne Waiguru, who resigned after a scandal involving the loss of Sh791 million.

Ms Waiguru, now Kirinyaga governor, denied involvement in the scandal, saying she was a whistleblower. 

MANY CHALLENGES

On Monday, Mr Wandayi said the officials are expected to explain what they know about the disappearance of the billions “at a time the country is faced with many challenges”.

“This committee has invited the accounting officer responsible for the State Department of Youth, among other individuals from the ministry and NYS, to respond to the queries related to the latest scandal,” Mr Wandayi said.

PAC’s intervention comes after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) quizzed Ms Mbogo and Mr Ndubai, among others, over the issue, as Public Service CS Margaret Kobia warned that anyone found guilty will face the law.

However, Ms Mbogo claims that the the DCI is investigating the loss of Sh900 million, and not Sh9 billion, which she termed exaggerated in a memo to her boss, Prof Kobia.

The memo is said to have been written two days after President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned Prof Kobia to explain the scandal that is a blot on his war against corruption.

LATEST SCANDAL

In the latest scandal, NYS officials are said to have set up dummy companies, forged tender documents and exploited loopholes in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).

The scandal, which comes after President Kenyatta’s warning to government officers to avoid corruption, involves senior government officials, DCI sources reveal.

They say the looting started in 2016 and was authorised and executed in favour of shadowy entities which supplied nothing but got paid.  

The DCI has zeroed in on 36 companies claiming to have supplied the NYS with goods.

“This culture of embezzlement of limited public resources must surely come to an end. People must be held to account for the roles they played that saw the billions disappear,” Mr Wandayi told the Nation on Monday.

But despite Mr Wandayi’s remark, it it notable  that at least 23 people prosecuted for the Sh791 million loss were acquitted in March this year for lack of evidence.


Data breach is costly, spend on security

By MITCHELLE HINGA
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In a widely connected world with ubiquitous data, one of the hottest topics is consumer privacy and data protection.

The need to feel confident in the privacy and confidentiality of personal information has driven a new awareness amongst the common ‘non-tech’ consumers. Any slight rumour concerning a data breach quickly catches on with consumers, resulting in catastrophic financial losses and, to some greater extent, the apps and or company in question quickly takes a nosedive into oblivion.

Any system is hackable and the threat landscape and hacking techniques are constantly evolving. In the case of the Equifax data breach in the United States, for instance, millions of customer records were stolen by hackers.

In the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, the British firm collected more than 87 million Facebook users’ personal information and allegedly used it for targeted political advertising.

THIRD PART APP

Arguably, some may say the offensive third party app simply exploited a loophole to collect information not only from users of their app but also all others in those users’ friends network on Facebook. However, many still consider this a privacy breach, resulting in several anti-Facebook campaigns, such as the viral #DeleteFacebook hashtag on Twitter.

The financial impact of this scandal is yet to be witnessed but the firm will definitely have to invest more in its security division and make major changes in its privacy policies.

Organisations can apply various security best practices to fulfill their responsibility of protecting consumers’ data online. Every company handling consumer private data needs to set up effective endpoint, network and email security to effectively filter out suspicious traffic, malware, spam and dangerous file types. Installing end protection software and secure web gateways also helps to identify and stop exploit kits before they infect IT assets.

INTERNAL SECURITY

They also need to come up with effective internal security policies regarding their IT assets — including a data protection one that guides employees on how to handle and protect consumer data. Other security protocols that should be included in a standard security policy include password management policies, access controls and management, device policies and so on.

Online platforms should also consider employing strict privacy policies that will assist in building trust with their consumers.

They should also train employees on how to utilise the protocols in the policy. One of the weakest links in any system is the human element and no amount of high-tech security infrastructure can help thwart that threat.

With employee training, the staff learn how to detect suspicious activities such as phishing emails, how to secure their passwords, handling customer data requests and, most importantly, how to use company devices securely to prevent hacking.

CORPORATE NETWORKS

Network segregation is one of the ingenious methods used to secure large corporate networks from online hacks. Hackers always want to get as much information by penetrating deep into the corporate network and accessing databases, point-of-sale terminals and secure servers.

By breaking down the corporate network into segments, each protected by a firewall, several security layers are created. Segregation treats the separate networks as potentially hostile to one another; if one is breached, the others remain secured. 

At times, no matter the network security and intrusion detection measures in place, hackers still gain access to the servers holding consumer data.

To ensure the information remains safe even after successful network breaches, organisations are often required to set up full-disk encryption on all servers, workstations and removable devices. Even if hackers gain access to the data, it is still impossible to decipher the contents.

PROTECTING DATA

So, the question still remains, can consumer data be fully protected? The answer is No. But with the above best practices, companies can ensure they have an optimised security infrastructure that keeps them ahead of the bad guys. However, much as organisations may do a more robust job of protecting our data, we as clients are in no position to actually demand the same from them.

Like most countries, Kenya lacks a central authority, policy or regulation in support of such protection and, therefore, there is lack of liability and ability to sue organisations that poorly secure our data. The gazetted Cyber Security and Protection Bill 2016 fails to articulate consumer data privacy and protection issues and the related penalties. That is why knowledge and choice are important with regard to online privacy.


Disclose petroleum contracts to avoid dreaded oil resource curse

By GILBERT MAKORE
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As Kenya inches closer to reaching First Oil, projected to be in 2022, it is not a certainty that it will fully benefit from it. Its legal, policy, institutional and practice frameworks must be optimal. A good regulatory framework would ensure that it leverages its oil for broad-based development while averting a ‘resource curse’, which has plagued many resource-rich countries.

Conditions for perpetual conflict and corruption emerge from a weak framework for managing oil resources and the windfall revenues they occasion.

One area in which there is a need for reform is contract transparency. Natural resources juridically belong to the citizenry and are held in trust by the government.

TRANSPARENT LICENCING

As the rightful owners of petroleum resources, it is important for citizens to know the conditions under which their resources are being traded and exploited.

Kenya has already made important commitments in this regard. Following a visit by then-United States President Barack Obama in 2015, the government publicly committed to developing a policy framework for transparent licensing and publication of contracts.

A member of the Open Government Partnership, in its 2016 Action Plan, it committed to disclose contractual information and revenues derived from the oil and gas industry by May 2018. But that has not been matched by changes in practice.

It is not clear what the obstacles are for the government to not follow through on its commitment, given that even oil companies and financiers have explicitly stated that they are in support of contract disclosure.

PETROLEUM CONTRACTS

A recent Oxfam study that assessed the policies of some 40 mining, oil and gas companies shows that 18 of them had made public statements in support of contract disclosure, demonstrating that the practice is becoming an accepted norm. Importantly, some of the firms that have strongly supported disclosure operate in Kenya.

Total stated that it “supports government efforts towards advancing transparency in accordance with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative framework, and advocates for the public disclosure by countries of their petroleum contracts and licences”.

Tullow Oil has also disclosed its petroleum agreements for operations in Ghana at the request of, and with the approval of, the Ghanaian government.

The International Finance Corporation, which provided financing for Africa Oil’s operations in Kenya, also commits to contract transparency.

SHARING CONTRACTS

It stated that its clients commit to being transparent about the terms and conditions agreed with host governments under which a resource is being developed.

Other African governments have disclosed production sharing contracts, busting the myth that doing so would prejudice the government or the companies.

Ghana recently put out a petroleum registry that discloses all contracts, licences and permits for the petroleum sector. This, it may be argued, has bolstered public confidence in the sector’s governance.

To get things right in oil resource governance, the Kenyan government should fully embrace the disclosure of information on extractives. Contract disclosure equips citizens with the information with which to hold the government and companies to account. It ensures that citizen expectations are managed and contributes to mitigating potential conflict.

POLICY IMPEDIMENT

Kenya’s opportunity to show leadership in East Africa’s growing  extractive sector would be presented by the passing of the Petroleum Bill and regulations with explicit provisions for disclosure of contracts, as well as and retrospective application.

Notably, however, there is no legal or policy impediment to disclosure of petroleum agreements — even in the absence of enabling petroleum legislation.

Mr Makore is the extractives adviser for Oxfam in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Twitter handle @gilbert_makore 


Cast climate change mitigation net wider

By LEONARD ONYANGO
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Debate around climate change dominates the dry season but fades away when it rains. For instance, it was a hot topic when Kenya was experiencing severe drought a few months ago, before the heavy rains that are wreaking havoc in various parts of the country began.   

The discussions prompted Deputy President William Ruto, in February, to issue a 90-day moratorium on timber harvesting in public and community forests, ordering Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko to form a task force on the wanton destruction of forests.

The Green Belt Movement’s Marion Kamau-led 10-member team has since handed in its report, recommending an overhaul of the Kenya Forest Service board and management.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Predictably, the climate change debate has since waned.

Climate change simply refers to alteration of weather patterns that lead to extreme events such as a rise in temperatures, excessive rainfall, storms, floods and droughts.

In less than 10 months, Kenya has felt the full brunt of climate change. The floods that have claimed more than 100 lives in two months are a result of that.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that climate change will cause some 250,000 additional deaths a year — from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress — between 2030 and 2050 as it provides a conducive environment for the spread of malaria and dengue fever, among other vector-borne diseases.

The ‘Economic Survey 2018’ report indicates that malaria has remained one of the top-two killer diseases in Kenya with counties categorised by the Ministry of Health as ‘low-risk areas’, such as Nairobi and parts of central Kenya, witnessing increased cases.

ENDEMIC ZONES

Baringo and Marsabit — where more than 70 people reportedly died of malaria last October alone — were among counties that suffered the most last year despite being outside the high-risk category. The ministry has also zoned counties near Lake Victoria, western Kenya and the Coast as high-risk, endemic zones.

Changing temperatures are making malaria to spread to areas where residents only used to read about it in books.

Malaria Futures for Africa (MalaFA) 2018, an opinion research study commissioned by Norvartis Social Business in 14 sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya, expresses fears that climate change might frustrate efforts to kick malaria out of the continent by 2030.

RISING TEMPERATURES

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures have been steadily rising over the past 20 years, with 2016 and 2017 among the warmest. It says even if the world stops greenhouse gas emissions today, which is unlikely, the effects of global warming will be felt for a century since the gases emitted in the atmosphere are massive.

That means the effects of climate change will live with us for decades and what we need is to develop adaptive capacity to minimise vulnerability and increase resilience. This calls for proper planning and feasible and sustainable strategies, not reactionary approaches motivated by political expediency.

Integration of climate change policy responses and actions in all 21 ministries of the national government and the 47 counties is vital.

PLANT TREES

We need effective policies that will enable Kenyans to voluntarily plant trees in their farms and land outside the glare of cameras. We need policies and actions that will ensure Kenyans are cushioned against extreme events such as floods, droughts and even storms instead of waiting for loss of lives and properties to act.

Effective policies will ensure that Kenyans, instead, exploit and reap from opportunities presented by climate change.

 Mr Onyango is a reporter with Taifa Leo and Daily Nation and a master’s degree student at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]


‘Handshake’ is doomed unless we recall spirit of Ufungamano

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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Most reasonable people would agree that this is as good a time as any to try and iron out the few chinks in the ‘new’ Constitution.

Deputy President William Ruto and others who opposed the transition to a progressive democratic constitutional order did, during the 2010 referendum point, out some flaws in the proposed document. The problem at the time was that they were more interested in sabotaging moves towards a clean break with the old totalitarian past.

Under such circumstances, an important constitutional moment could not be halted. The new document had to be passed, warts and all, on the same principle that the reactionary forces who wanted to delay Independence in 1963 could not have been allowed to have their way.

There was the implicit understanding, however, that after a reasonable period when the new Constitution had settled in, the document would be revisited. That time is now.

PROMULGATION

It’s going to eight years since the promulgation of the Constitution. Two general elections have been held under the new dispensation, devolution has been firmly entrenched and a raft of laws passed and institutions created to breathe life into the new order.

In the process, we have been able to clearly identify aspects of the brave new world that have not worked as expected — either because of weaknesses in the new Constitution or the familiar Kenyan refusal to do things by the book.

What we have gone through, particularly the unresolved contradictions in society that turn electoral contests into ethnic conflict, make it imperative that we conduct a sober self-introspection and move with haste to plug the leaks.

NATIONAL DIALOGUE

It is particularly important that this national dialogue and any desired constitutional amendments be concluded well before the 2022 General Election, for the obvious reason that a failure to correct things now will only leave us at risk of another orgy of electoral bloodletting that could make the 2007-2008 meltdown look like a kindergarten romp.

The truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga presents the perfect opportunity for Kenyans to embark on a national conversation. However, we are seeing also that expected dividends from the ‘handshake’ could turn out to be a mirage if the brave initiative is reduced to just a stage for premature jostling around the 2022 elections.

Mr Ruto, with an eye only on succeeding President Kenyatta, is clearly suspicious that the handshake may be used to craft a deal that undermines his State House prospects.

GROUNDLESS

His fears may be groundless and selfish but the reality is that his potent political base is being mobilised, and has the capacity, to sabotage any arrangement that does not meet his approval.

The irony is that it is Mr Odinga who seems to be doing everything within his powers to stoke the Deputy President’s fears, and thus provoke the counter-reaction that would derail the expected national dialogue.

Mr Odinga’s undisguised push for an overhaul of the governance system to bring back the office of Prime Minister may be well-intentioned but it is like waving a red flag in front of Mr Ruto. It also lends credence to suspicion that, rather than being moved by altruistic intentions, Mr Odinga’s enthusiasm for the handshake is motivated by selfish pursuit of high political office through the back door.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

His campaign for far-reaching constitutional amendments is clearly premature, just like Mr Ruto’s early campaign for 2022.

The push for constitutional amendments at this stage also makes nonsense of Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta’s appointment of a team to lead their Building Bridges initiative: Desired changes can be identified and negotiated through the consultative process and not unilaterally pushed by one side even before talks have begun.

Our recent history shows that no reform process pushed by political players pursuing self-interest has ever worked. The Uhuru-Raila initiative is at risk of abject failure unless political interests are put aside and the national interests promoted to the front.

BUILDING BRIDGES

But this will only happen if the two principals relinquish their direct control of the Building Bridges initiative and reconstruct it into an inclusive people-driven initiative led by those without a personal stake in the outcome.

We need the spirit of Ufungamano, or the Citizens Coalition for Constitutional Change (CCCC), that from the mid-1990s took up the cause of reform while the predator political classes sat pretty in their comfort zones.   


Tips on reducing graft at NYS were ignored

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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The National Youth Service ignored a raft of recommendations made by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission  in 2015 to tighten up procurement, which could have prevented further theft.

Following the flagging of the first Sh791 million scandal, the EACC did an audit that exposed tendering flaws, including jobs going to the highest bidders, preferred suppliers getting multiple contracts, conflict of interest among NYS personnel and administrative failures.

The commission then tabled recommendations for implementation by the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Planning, the NYS Director-General, and sub-county commissioners, the first line of approval for tenders. The measures were aimed at  plugging the gaps in procurement and aligning the processes to the Public Procurement and Disposals Act.

These were largely ignored, either out of complicity or negligence, leading to the loss of the Sh9 billion, unearthed exclusively by the Nation.

AWARDING TENDERS

Among the practices flagged by the EACC in 2015 are the awarding of tenders to the highest bidder, in clear contravention of the Public Procurement and Disposals Act (PPDA), which states that successful tenders must be those that have the lowest evaluated price.

In addition, the NYS sub-county tender committees were faulted for awarding multiple contracts to suppliers at the NYS field units based on the prices recommended by the evaluation committees, which do not reflect the prices quoted by the suppliers.

The EACC also noted that the NYS had a “tendency to invite the same suppliers to quote for the supply of various items, despite a large number of prequalified suppliers in different categories”, leading to a situation where only three firms out of 317 prequalified suppliers were invited to bid between 2013 and 2014.

INCONSISTENCIES

Further inconsistencies were noted with the awarding of contracts to companies owned by the same people, reflecting a lack of due diligence, which made the system vulnerable to rigging and conflict of interest.

“M/s Nicy Company Ltd was awarded a contract to supply 10,000 berets @ 399 each, amounting to Sh3,990,000 while M/s Liberty Professional Services Ltd was awarded a contract to supply 8,000 wool-ribbed jerseys @ Sh1,700 each, amounting to Sh13,600,000. A review of documents showed that the two companies shared a postal address, plot number, manufacturer’s authorisation and directors,” said the report.

In addition, the NYS managers were faulted for paying for substandard goods and for goods not fully delivered.


Knut tells heads associations to keep off labour issues

By BARACK ODUOR
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Headteachers’ associations have been warned against negotiating labour issues on behalf of teachers.

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion has warned the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) and the Kenya Primary School Headteachers Association (Kepsha) against making any deals with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) on the workers’ welfare.

Speaking at Agoro Sare Secondary School in Homa Bay County, Mr Sossion accused Kepsha and Kessha of endorsing the transfer of teachers.

TRANSFER TEACHERS

“Kepsha and Kessha should not indulge in negotiating labour matters on behalf of teachers. This is the role of trade unions,” said Mr Sossion, who graced the annual general meeting of Knut’s Rachuonyo branch.

He said the decision to support the transfer of teachers was made by a few leaders of the headteachers’ association rather than the majority of teachers who were affected.

Mr Sossion said the teachers’ unions represent the interests of both Kepsha and Kessha members. He accused the associations of sabotaging unions’ efforts to fight for teachers’ rights.

Teachers will never recognise negotiations made by Kepsha and Kessha on labour matters, he said. “Let Kepsha and Kessha stop undertaking activities which are not within their mandate. We don’t want confusion in advocating teachers’ rights,” he added.

DANGEROUS POLICIES

The secretary-general accused the TSC and the Education ministry of coercing the headteachers’ associations into accepting policies which are dangerous to the teachers’ wellbeing.

Mr Sossion said they were planning to sue the two associations for forcing teachers to accept the transfers.

He was accompanied by Knut National Executive Council Nyanza Representative Collins Oyuu, Homa Bay County Knut Chairman Patrick Were and Rachuonyo branch Executive Secretary Eliud Ombori.