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Thursday, July 26th, 2018

 

All must back speedy Ruaraka land probe

By EDITORIAL
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Readers must be wondering why the Daily Nation has gone hammer and tongs after the Ruaraka scandal involving the purported sale of land to the Ministry of Education for Ruaraka Secondary School and Drive-In Primary School on Thika Road. They must have been puzzled that the other transactions — one involving the sale of land to the Office of the President for the General Service Unit and two others involving land for the expansion of roads — have not been covered with equal zeal.

The reason is that on May 11, Justice Joseph Sergon of the High Court issued a permanent injunction barring the Nation from reporting matters to do with Afrison Import and Export, Huelands Ltd and Whispering Palms Estate Ltd. These are the companies that owned or were involved in the development of the property in question.

COMPLICITY

The Ruaraka land transactions are a nightmare. Because the original decisions were taken more than 30 years ago, the state of our records leaves a lot to be desired and, because of the numerous cases and contests that have taken place, key facts and figures are shrouded in the mists of time. Equally, the corruption of astronomical sums of money involved has soaked the very fabric of government and eaten into the morals of some of the highest and trusted offices of the land. Many powerful people are implicated in these scandals. The fights to save them are undermining the cause of justice and the ability of the media to report freely.

The National Land Commission, the Education ministry, the Judiciary and the National Treasury all stand accused by Parliament of complicity. And when the truth is finally established, suspects will have been gathered from a wide array of departments and the top circles of government could, sadly, be significantly depopulated.

FRUSTRATED

Even more seriously, the case is becoming hostage to the power struggle — subtle, but a power struggle all the same — between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, whose supporters see the crackdown on corruption as an attempt to block him from ascending to the presidency. Unfortunately, some institutions are quietly being accused of having allowed themselves to be used in the furtherance of political designs therein. The danger of this is that careers will be hurt and the work of well-meaning institutions frustrated.

The Daily Nation will be the first to admit that there two sides to this argument. There are those who believed that the property was private and based their decisions or advice on that. They argue that Afrison and Hueland did not sign a deed of surrender. There is also a court finding by Judge Alfred Mabeya, who nullified an earlier sale of part of the property by the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Ltd to the OP and awarded Afrison Sh4.086 billion for land occupied by the GSU. This is presumed to establish ownership and render the property transactionable.

CONVOLUTED

It can’t be denied, either, that there is a lot in these transactions that is convoluted and fishy and that they involve many shady characters. Why weren’t the interests of depositors, whose money Afrison took in 1981 and to date does not appear to have paid, not protected? If the charge has been removed, who was paid and how much was paid for a loan incurred in 1981? Why hasn’t the voice of the official receiver of Continental Credit Finance been heard? What about the depositors and their successors? Who is standing up for the millions of shillings they lost in the collapse of the bank by this type of lending? Why has the government, over and over again, paid Afrison rather than the official receiver?

PREVARICATE

Surrender of land for infrastructure is not just a volitional, procedural issue; it is a legal requirement. Afrison is not above the law. Where is the land that was surrendered for utilities in the development of the 196-unit estate that was built on the Ruaraka land and sold — twice — to the government? And why weren’t any of these transactions ever completed, the government given its titles and the official receiver transparently paid?

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, whose handling of this case and corruption, in general, is, itself, a scandal, should complete its investigations and furnish the Director of Public Prosecutions with the evidence and facts. The DPP, for his part, should not prevaricate: The endless ping-pong of the school land file between the DPP and EACC should end. The DPP should decide if he has a prosecutable case and, if so, who is culpable. And then he should prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

The President, DP, Cabinet, all relevant institutions, long-suffering taxpayers, civil society and all people of goodwill should lend their full support to the speedy and just resolution of this issue.


Prevent sexual abuse at your workplace

By ANGELA ROONEY
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In recent months, non-governmental organisations have received negative publicity as a result of some of their employees engaging in sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment against workmates or beneficiaries.

To avert these offences, NGOs are looking at revisiting their internal policies with tough penalties for abusers that will make it difficult for potential abusers to engage in the unbecoming behaviours.

When employees see such policies being enforced continuously, they gain courage to alert the management about incidents or when they spot workmates behaving inappropriately. This will go a long way in breaking the spiral of silence among victims of sexual harassment or assault, who usually choose to remain quiet for fear of victimisation.

CORRECT CHANNELS

A study by Report the Abuse, an NGO that works to break down silence on sexual violence amongst aid workers, revealed that about 87 per cent of NGO workers knew a colleague who had experienced sexual violence in the course of their humanitarian work. However, just 17 per cent of those who reported the abuse to their employers were happy about how it was handled.

Prevention also entails training staff on what sexual abuse really means so that they can become aware when such behaviours occur. In addition, employees are being trained on the correct channels of making such complaints.

Whistle-blowers seeking to remain anonymous also need to be protected. Here, technological innovations can come in handy as apps exist that enable people to report critical incidents anonymously. It is equally important for NGOs to be proactive by regularly engaging with staff to get feedback on the effectiveness of policies to fight the crime.

RECRUTIMENT PROCESS

Organisations are also working on solid recruitment processes — with checks and balances — to ensure that they do not open their doors to abusers. There have been concerns that, upon resigning or being fired, in some cases, perpetrators of sexual abuse often join other NGOs, where they carry on with the same behaviours against unsuspecting employees. Such unfortunate incidences can be controlled by robust mechanisms.

As much as privacy of ex-employees’ data is important, NGOs are beginning to work together and come to a consensus on types of information that should be shared among them for the benefit of the entire sector.

Preventive measures are not infallible; despite policies, abuse could still happen. NGOs need a framework that provides an understanding of practices and processes while supporting those affected so as to minimise the impact of an ordeal.

PRESS CHARGES

Any evidence of the incident should also be collected and preserved as it will be key if and when victims press charges.

Thereafter, psychological support will be required — probably for a long period — to enable the victims to come to terms with the traumatic experience. This should not be a one-way process, where ideas are imposed on the survivors.

By implementing change and protecting their employees, NGOs, in essence, help to take care of the caregivers.


Prioritise free education lest it’s taken as another failed campaign pledge

The free education promised by the Jubilee government in primary and secondary schools, and which they implemented to the letter as promised during campaigns, seems to have issues which, if not addressed, put into question the whole concept.

What many thought were teething problems now prove to be a real issue in planning and dispensation of finances with precision.

Reports from most schools paint a picture of despair in paying non-teaching staff, settling suppliers and meeting other needs which, prior to the free schooling, were catered for by the school fees paid by parents. We have it from the Kuppet secretary-general that a cool Sh6 billion is owed to schools and, if nothing is done this week, they will close earlier without the pupils sitting end-of-term tests.

Everybody knows it takes quite an effort by the government to sustain this expensive venture. It demands smooth planning to make sure the funds are there. But there is no excuse, since this is always captured in the budget.

We are in the second term and, although the funds are released termly, why does it not happen at the beginning of every term?

Although it could have been on the spur of the political moment, the government can still save face and meet its part of the bargain.

The other day, the President put a moratorium on new projects. Maybe we have bitten more than we can chew and it’s time to prioritise what requires the taxpayer’s money more.

DAVID M. KIGO, Nairobi.


Kiraithe: “'Bearing with the Chinese' was the reporter’s invention.”

ICOrdinarily,

What criteria could the reporter have used to conclude that the government statement on the standard gauge railway was a plea to bear with the Chinese?

civil servants should exercise intellectual humility to avoid needless altercations with the media, but allowing Kipchumba Some’s article – “With these bloopers, who will now take Kiraithe seriously?” (Sunday Nation, July 22) – to go unchallenged would be rather careless.

What criteria could the reporter have used to conclude that the government statement on the standard gauge railway was a plea to bear with the Chinese?

For the benefit of student journalists, media pronouncements by civil servants do not derive their value from momentary public applause or euphoria: Their intrinsic worth lies in their capacity to draw public attention to the objective reality of the matters under reference.

WORK ETHIC

It, therefore, came to pass that, at a time when everybody was frothing in the mouth and steaming in the ears on alleged Chinese racism, the Government Spokesman went beyond the outrage and pointed towards our national work ethic.

Without pre-empting the investigations, the lingering message was that nations have not developed because racism was eliminated; they achieved high standards of living for their citizens because of national work ethics that sustained long-term value addition. Kaizen is just one of these.

Our briefing illuminated government action on allegations of financial impropriety, endangering of wildlife and racial discrimination. On the last, the frame of reference was manifested as the Constitution with a firm assurance that the State will protect citizens’ human rights and fundamental freedoms.

REGULATIONS

Of necessity, the statement had to go deeper. Strategic accountabilities for those privileged to pioneer the SGR legacy had to come into play. Particular focus was placed on the integrity of employees to internal human capital management policies, procedures and regulations.

It was unequivocally stated that rules and regulations are made to be followed. Indeed, consistent adherence to policies, procedures and regulations is a fundamental qualification for employees wishing to continue serving any organisation, whether public or private.

TOILETS AND CARS

We, therefore, took issue with employees who preferred extra-institutional channels to air grievances. We asserted that the words “espionage” and “sabotage” still retain their meaning in the English language. Moreover, those trusted with the responsibility of taking over SGR operations in less than four years must look beyond dining rooms, toilets and staff cars.

I hope the ad hominem vitriol by Kipchumba was not intended to annul our reference to a national work ethic. A country where surgeons open the wrong heads and public procurement regulations are contemptuously overlooked must treat workplace ethics as an emergency.

ERIC KIRAITHE, Government Spokesman, Kenya.


Northern Kenya can break droughts, floods cycle

By KURA OMAR
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Over the past four months in the Kenyan drylands, we have have seen a familiar cycle of drought, famine and floods followed by charity from fellow Kenyans.

But we’ll need more than emergency aid if we’re to break this cycle that strands our region in poverty. We need strategies and infrastructure to manage our existing water resources.

It was in January when the first drought emergencies were declared for most of northern Kenya, including my home county, Marsabit. Thousands of cows, goats and camels died and, with them, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

RESIDENTS DISPLACED

A month later, the drought was still grinding and the government had declared an emergency in 23 of the 47 counties.

The Kenyan Red Cross appealed to Kenyans and raised Sh1 billion to mitigate the effects of the drought.

The drought ended when rains came in February and the crisis, for the moment, was averted. But the rains didn’t stop, rivers broke their banks and homes were washed away. Last month, the Red Cross was back — this time appealing for Sh499 million to help those displaced by floods.

Once again, Marsabit, along with seven other counties, was declared the site of an emergency.

CRUEL IRONY

While the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations offer valuable assistance to areas struck by the recurrent weather-related emergencies, this goodwill cannot sustain them through these devastating cyclical events.

Kenya lost billions of shillings in the past decade to such emergencies. During drought, crops fail and livestock die for lack of water and pasture. When the rains come, thousands are at the mercy of floods.

It is a cruel irony that all the dryland counties flooded today will be dry in a few months and residents will fight for the few shallow wells. You will hear of Kenyans dying of dehydration, crop failure and loss of livestock.

Kenya’s per capita water availability is less than 600 cubic metres, which, according to the World Bank, makes it one of the most water-scarce countries. However, its rainwater potential, if captured and managed with better infrastructure, should be more than enough.

MANAGE RANGELANDS

But what can we, as pastoralists, do to better prepare for these cycles of long droughts and hard rain? I have lived through several droughts and lost herds of livestock. This is what I have learnt: Pastoralists must adapt or perish as their way of life vanishes.

Communities need to diversify their livelihoods, switch to drought-resistant livestock and manage their rangelands properly.

But then, the government must also take action — including building more water-harvesting infrastructure.

The arid counties can produce enough food — and even surplus — if runoff is properly harvested. That would also mean households don’t need to move their livestock in search of water and grazing, resulting in less conflict among Kenyans.

WATER HARVESTING

One way to improve water harvesting is to ask private companies to invest in it. Many of the most severely drought-hit counties are also home to major infrastructure developments, including wind farms in Lake Turkana and the Lamu port. We should compel the companies profiting from these developments to finance water-harvesting strategies as their corporate social responsibility.

To be sure, some progress has been made. In March, the government announced its intention to launch a National Water Storage and Harvesting Authority in a bid to improve rainwater collection and stockpiling. The goal is to help us better manage our cycles of drought and floods.

But there are concerns that the authority’s focus will be on the southern part of Kenya instead of the arid North, which has been historically neglected.

The national government has also set aside Sh12 billion in funding for development projects in 14 marginalised counties. Turkana is getting the lion’s share and has committed most of it towards water. It’s hoped that the other counties will follow suit.

DIVERSIFY LIVESTOCK

Unfortunately, the other disastrous cycle that we Kenyans are too familiar with is that of funds followed by corruption followed by fat wallets and numbered offshore accounts. We can only hope that this money will be put to good use.

We must act now to break the disastrous cycle of droughts and floods. While the government takes action, communities need not wait for this to happen. They can play a greater role in adapting and preparing for climate shocks. They must take advantage of rains and manage their water resources, diversify their livestock, plant more trees and practise disciplined rangeland management.

And of course, they should also hold their leaders to account for their promises.

Mr Omar, the co-founder and Kenya programme director for the Boma Project, is an Aspen Institute 2018 New Voices Fellow. [email protected]


Owino Ouru slum has dangerous level of lead

By BRIAN OCHARO
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The levels of lead concentration at Owino Ouru slum in Changamwe constituency is 53 times the accepted maximum of 1,200 milligrams per kilogramme (mg/kg), a court was told.

Former Deputy Government Chemist Wandera Bideru said lead concentration in soil and dust samples from the slum were extremely high and dangerous.

“We were shocked by the revelation that up to 64,000 mg/kg of the metal was present in soil and dust samples. These levels are extremely high,” he told Environment and Lands Court Judge Ann Omollo.

He said the samples were taken from several houses and surrounding areas, including play grounds.

COMPENSATION

The highest concentration was in samples taken from the local metal refinery and its compound, he said.

Mr Wandera was testifying in a case in which victims of lead poisoning are demanding compensation from the government for damage caused to their health and loss of life. They also want a declaration made on their right to a clean and healthy environment.

The victims have also sued the Attorney-General, county government, cabinet secretaries for Environment and Health, as well as the National Environment Management Authority, Export Processing Zones Authority, Metal Refinery (EPZ) Ltd and Penguin Paper and Book Company.

INVESTIGATION

They claim that Metal Refinery started operations in 2007 and its processes include, but are not limited to, purchase of old lead batteries, breaking and separating their parts, feeding them into a smelter, and packaging and exporting the finished products.

Mr Wandera, who represented the Ministry of Health in investigating lead poisoning in the slum, said a report he prepared together with officials from the county government and National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) was accurate.

“The levels of lead in the victims’ houses were unacceptable,” he added.

In their report titled Lead Exposure in Owino Ouru, Mr Wandera said tests showed the level of lead in the soil was hazardous and toxic.

He said the machine used to analyse the soil, water and dust samples was the latest technology in the market for the job.

“The tests were done twice and the results were the same. Shockingly, samples taken from piped water used in the area produced negative results. The committee then concluded that the source of lead poisoning was the metal refinery plant,” he said.

Mr Wandera said a tree near the refinery’s chimney had dried up since there was no filter. The emissions from burning batteries were gaseous, he noted.

The hearing continues on November 28 and 29.


Blow to shisha lovers as court upholds ban

By MAUREEN KAKAH
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Shisha smokers will have to contend with the fact that the ban on their beloved pastime may never be lifted.

Justice Roselyn Aburili on Thursday upheld the ban imposed by the Ministry of Health, dealing a blow to efforts to lift it.

Even though Justice Aburili admitted that the manner in which the notice  was enforced in January last year was unprocedural, she ruled that the well-being of Kenyans comes first than social and economic gains of shisha businessmen.

HARMFUL EFFECTS

“The ban on shisha though irregular shall remain in force as this court cannot gamble with the health and future of generations of Kenyans,” she said.

Having defended the health of Kenyans, the judge did not spare the State. She reprimanded it for issuing the shisha ban without sensitising and educating the public on the dangers of consuming the commodity.

She, therefore, ordered the government to comply with the required regulations in nine months and that the necessary regulations should be tabled before Parliament for approval before implementation.

“I decline to invalidate the rules but it is the duty of the State to take protective measures without having to wait until negative effects manifest,” she ruled.

LEGAL NOTICE

The ban on shisha was imposed by former health CS Cleopa Mailu on December 28, 2017, making the country the third in the region to enforce such a rule after Tanzania and Rwanda.

According to the judge there is a greater public interest in protecting and enforcing public health from harmful effects and practices associated with shisha consumption.

The judge further ruled that the CS failed to disclose to the court the intention to table the legal notice before Parliament for debate.

As for the businessmen, she said there was no evidence to show that shisha business is unlicensed.


Nation Media Group career fair set for today

By NATION REPORTER
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The Nation Media Group will today host a major career fair for high school students and Form Four leavers seeking places in universities and tertiary colleges. The fair will be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, from 8.30am to 6 pm.

It is open to students, school leavers, parents, guardians and teachers as well as career specialists and talent recruitment experts.

The objective is to give guidance on career choices to high school students and all others seeking opportunities in higher education institutions.

OFFER TIPS

Managers of higher education institutions will be available to give tips on career options, including where they are tenable, costs involved and job placement opportunities. They will also talk about the capacity of the universities and colleges in terms of numbers and courses they offer.

The fair seeks to fill a void in the education system where school leavers are left on their own to make decisions on careers but without information and correct advice.

The fair will prepare Form Four candidates for selection of university and college courses that is scheduled for the third term. In addition, universities and colleges will be admitting students in September, so this is the appropriate time for the qualifiers to understand what awaits them ahead.

SUSTAIN INTEREST

Successful career depends on proper planning. Students are better placed when they know the reason they are choosing particular courses or programmes, how long it takes to study it, the fees and the job prospects. Also, it rests on the ability of the student to pursue the course and sustain interest in it.

Last year, there were 611,959 candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), and 70,073 obtained grade C+, which is the minimum entry point to university. A total of 62,851 were selected to join the universities.


Businessman found guilty of killing lawyer

By RICHARD MUNGUTI
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A city bar owner who shot dead a 27-year-old lawyer has been found guilty of murder.

Erastus Ngura Odhiambo was found guilty of shooting dead Ms Linda Wanjiku Irungu in the wee hours of December 11, 2014 at Buru Buru Phase 5 in Nairobi.

Justice Stellah Mutuku said Odhiambo committed the offence after visiting Ms Irungu’s house thrice on the fateful night after Ms Irungu declined to join him for a night out.

The judge said when Odhiambo found Ms Irungu trying to drive out of her compound, he dragged her out of the car then shot her after a struggle as two guards watched. The incident awoke neighbours of Waihuru Court where she lived.

FATAL SHOT

Justice Mutuku rejected Odhiambo’s defence that it was Ms Irungu who pulled the trigger of the pistol as she was drunk. The judge said Odhiambo, 37, had planned to kill Ms Irungu as he had gone to her house with his gun cocked.

The judge said although the accused denied the shooting, the bullet recovered from Ms Irungu’s body emanated from his gun.

“Although the accused claims the deceased reached out for his gun and fired in the air, it is impossible for the bullet to have changed directions to hit her at the back. It is the accused who fired the fatal shot which killed Ms Irungu with whom they had been quarrelling,” the judge said.

She added: “Odhiambo found the deceased driving out in a bid to run away from him. She was dressed in pyjamas. He blocked her and drew his gun from his trouser. He opened the door of her vehicle, dragged her out, pushed her towards her house. She resisted as she struggled to free herself. It is then that he shot her in the right upper back inflicting a fatal injury,” the judge said.

Ms Irungu told Odhiambo “you have shot me”. “She couldn’t walk any more. She fell, then succumbed to the injuries a few minutes later while being rushed to hospital,” said Justice Mutuku.

IMPACT REPORT

The judge found that all the evidence places the accused at the scene and he is to blame for the lawyer’s death. “From the totality of the evidence adduced, I find the accused guilty of murdering Linda Wanjiku Irungu,” ruled Justice Mutuku.

State prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki applied to be allowed to present the victim’s impact report from her family and also to establish whether he has previous convictions.

The judge will hand down a sentence on July 31 after receiving the accused mitigation and the victim’s impact report.


KNH needs Sh6 billion for machines, development

By ANGELA OKETCH
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Kenyatta National Hospital (KHH) requires Sh6 billion to replace some equipment and for infrastructure development, according to a five-year strategic plan launched on Thursday.

The money will be used to construct and equip a fully-fledged 300-bed capacity hospital, construction of 2,000 accommodation units and conference facilities for medical tourism.

However, the plan does not clearly specify which equipment the hospital is going to replace amidst complains of frequent breakdowns which have ended up denying many Kenyans access to affordable and quality health care.

In January this year, two key machines broke down at the facility leaving doctors with limited options for diagnosing illnesses and treating patients.

GRAFTING MACHINES

The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan and a laparoscopy tower machine had broken down for one year. The laundry machine also broke down forcing the hospital to outsource laundry services.

The country’s largest public referral facility does not have skin grafting machines. It was not clearly stipulated in the plan which machines will be purchased.

According to the Sh18.9billion strategic plan for the period 2018 to 2023, the hospital has also allocated Sh2.5 billion additional funding for specialised human resource and Sh2.7 billion for payroll funding.

Also, in view of the emergence of security and safety concerns, the hospital requires Sh891 million to strengthen its security and safety measures.

CCTV CAMERAS

Dr Thomas Mutie, the acting chief executive officer said the facility and any other person coming into the hospital needs to be assured of security.

“The money is going to be used in constructing a perimeter wall, CCTV cameras, training of personnel and buying of equipment. The hospital is determined to solve its areas of weaknesses,” said Dr Mutie.

The move comes in the wake of a string of recent incidents that put the hospital in the spotlight including a surgery mix-up on February 19, a controversial caesarean section on January 26 and allegations of sexual assault of new mothers revealed last month.

The largest referral public hospital in the country will also undertake automation estimated at Sh1.5 billion.

“This plan will improve efficiency and service delivery at the hospital,” Dr Mutie said.

THEMATIC AREAS

He said recognising the scarcity of resources and the competing priorities, the plan identifies new ventures for funding to improve operational efficiency.

“With the help from the government, internal funding and other sources, we are optimistic that we shall achieve our ultimate goal,” he said.

Out of the total hospital budgetary requirement of Sh18 billion, the hospital will generate Sh6 billion, the government grant will give Sh3.8 billion while Sh8 billion will be from mobilised resources.

In the first year, the hospital needs a total of Sh3.7 billion, in the second year, they will spend Sh4.1 billion, third-year Sh4.6 billion while in the fourth and fifth year, the hospital needs Sh2.7 billion for the plan.

The plan focuses on three thematic areas each with a strategic result whose successful execution will enable the hospital to achieve its mission and vision.

SERVICE DELIVERY

The areas include operational excellence which will tackle effective and timely service delivery and efficient utilisation of resources, excellence in clinical outcomes will look at improved quality health care and business growth for financial sustainability.

“I am happy to note that KNH has taken cognisance of emerging trends in the sector in the new strategic plan. Some of these trends include increase in uptake of traditional and alternative medicine, resistance to available medications, emerging and re-emerging diseases, upsurge of non-communicable diseases; changes in technology, high demand for specialisation and sub-specializations and increased demand for emergency and critical care services,” said the Health Minister Sicily Kariuki.

She said proper implementation of this strategic plan, will brand KNH the leading centre of excellence in the provision of specialized medical care in East and Central Africa.