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Thursday, August 9th, 2018

 

Pay is boon for farmers

By EDITORIAL
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The release of Sh1.4 billion by the State to pay farmers who have delivered their maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board is good news. The pay is part of the Sh3.5 billion the NCPB owes farmers.

The Minisry of Agriculture has already sent the money to the Ministry of Devolution. The NCPB says it will disburse the money to the farmers as soon as it is received.

This development comes against the backdrop of the ongoing vetting of farmers to weed out the unscrupulous traders who recently supplied cheap imported grain, with the sole aim of benefiting from the NCPB price of Sh3,200 per 90kg bag.

Genuine farmers must be insulated from the shenanigans of selfish individuals masquerading as maize growers.

WHEELER-DEALERS

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with importing maize, if there is an acute shortage in the country, where it is the staple food for millions. However, importation should not be an avenue for wheeler-dealers and ‘tenderpreneurs’ to line their pockets through shady and illegal dealings at the expense of farmers.

The individuals must not be allowed to reap where they never sowed. While the imports help to lower the cost of maize flour, they hurt farmers’ earnings and breed unnecessary confrontations between the growers and government.

The interest of maize farmers must be paramount at all times. This is why the State must make haste and ensure the balance owed to the farmers is cleared within reasonable time.

This will motivate the farmers and enable them to prepare early for the next planting season. Only this way will the country have adequate grain stocks for consumption and to replenish the Strategic Grain Reserve.


MPs must be serious with investigations

By EDITORIAL
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It is not a surprise that Parliament has rejected the report on the sugar scandal. Right from the onset, the investigation into the controversial sugar imports was doomed to fail. The question, therefore, is, are parliamentary committees the viable vehicles for interrogating public interest matters? Do they have the competence and aptitude to probe such matters? Do they inspire confidence when they hobnob with some of the parties being interrogated?

What of the spurious and unfounded recommendations that they make? When, for example, the reports indict Cabinet secretaries, do they provide a direct link to how they played a part in the matter? Conversely, when they extricate those apparently culpable, do they provide justification for it? How will the government now deal with illegal sugar imports?

COMPROMISED

It is parliamentary practice to investigate matters through departmental committees. In this case, Trade and Agriculture committees led the sugar probe. The essence of parliamentary investigations is that it is open to the public and, therefore, parties other than those involved can make submissions to inform the exercise.

But experience has now shown that the committees tend to be divided or sometimes driven by vested interests. Matters are made worse by the fact that members are often compromised. When the joint committee presented its first draft report a few weeks ago, it was rejected precisely because it was shoddily done. Conclusions had been made without supporting evidence, which is the reason Speaker Justin Muturi sent the MPs back to the drawing board.

PROFESSIONALISM

However, the final report has faced a similar fate of rejection. Several issues were at play. In and outside Parliament, politicians turned the report into a punching bag. Some fought it because it was perceived as crafted to ‘fix’ some individuals in government. Others found it an opportunity to settle political differences. Whichever the case, such orientation was wrong.

It will take rather long to determine the authenticity of the claims made on the illegal sugar deal. It will be difficult to establish whether the sugar was contaminated, who did the importation and who evaded taxes. This is a tragic end and a costly one because the committee has spent enormous sums of public money.

We note that Mr Muturi recently spelt out guidelines for MPs in conducting public investigations. More than ever before, MPs must take the committee work seriously and insist on professionalism. It is unfair for the investigations to be used either to cleanse or falsely accuse public officials. Recommendations must be based on solid evidence and reasoned argument.

Finally, discussions in the House must be objective. We cannot afford wasting more public money on meaningless investigations.


Duale criticises motions to impeach Cabinet secretaries

By SAMWEL OWINO
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National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale has told members of Parliament to stop initiating populist motions to impeach Cabinet Secretaries without substantive grounds, as stipulated in the Constitution.

Mr Duale said most impeachment motions by MPs are only meant to excite the public but fail because the lawmakers do not follow the process to the end.

The Garissa Town MP dismissed an impeachment motion currently being championed by Kimilili MP Didimus Baraza to send national Treasure CS Henry Rotich home as a result of his authorisation for the entry of contraband sugar into the country, as well as of a Sh1.5 billion payment for land in Ruaraka.

OUT OF ORDER

Speaking on Thursday during the graduation ceremony of 387 MPs, research assistants, and personal assistants (PA) trained by Parliament, Mr Duale said the grounds for impeachment must be presented to the National Assembly clerk for approval.

“I have nothing personal against the MP, and I am not protecting anyone, but the lawmaker is out of order. For one to moot an impeachment motion, he or she must state the grounds and present them to the office of the clerk for consideration and approval,” Mr Duale said.

SIGNATURES

He further explained that once the motion is approved, the MP sponsoring it must leave it, with a blank sheet of paper attached to it, at the reception, where colleagues can read and sign it if they support it.

“Impeachment motions are not being prosecuted in the corridors of Parliament through press conferences. There is a process in law that must be followed,” Mr Duale said. But Mr Baraza said he will continue collecting signatures to send CS Rotich home.

“I am continuing with what I started, Duale should not tell me what to do,” he said. MPs have also threatened to impeach CSs Rashid Achesa (Sports), Sicily Karuiki (Health), Charles Keter (Energy), Keriako Tobiko (Environment).


Senators now probe SGR racism claims

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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The hard reality of the deplorable working conditions at the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was laid bare before a committee of the Senate on Thursday.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani revealed cases of discriminations, intimidation and outright segregation policies pitting the migrant Chinese workers on one hand and the locals on the other.

Mr Yattani told the committee of Labour, which is investigating claims of racism at SGR, that even though the China Bridge and Roads Construction Company, which operates the line, has a well drawn and detailed human resources policy manual, its implementation and compliance with the labour laws and the constitution is not clear.

SMOKING ZONES

He revealed to the committee, chaired by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, that SGR work stations are not registered as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act which had exposed the workers to health hazards and risks.

“There is a general inadequacy in the provision of personal protective equipment especially in the track maintenance, gantry cranes and freight departments,” Mr Yattani said, pointing out that even though there are designated smoking zones in all the work stations, Chinese workers do not use them.

“This has led to exposure of workers to cigarette smoke. There is an inadequate supply of wholesome drinking water to local workers,” he said, while pointing out that work permits for migrant Chinese workers were not availed for verification except residency visas.

LABOUR AUDIT

The committee is probing claims of mistreatment and discrimination of Kenyans working with the SGR after claims of racism emerged.

The claims were first reported in the local media after which the CS appointed a committee on July 12 to investigate the claims and the committee accomplished the task and filed a report presenting preliminary findings to the CS.

However, Mr Yattani told the committee that due to time constraints, the investigators were  unable to get to the bottom of the claims but promised to constitute another team to conduct a labour audit of the SGR to verify claims.

NO TRANSPORT

“While the Chinese workers have eateries in every work station, locals do not have this provision,” Mr Yattani said.

He added that while employees have transport allowance those who work for long hours and far removed areas stations are greatly inconvenienced because there is no provision for transport.

With regard to their employment contracts, local workers complained that it was not clear who their employer is.


Nakuru MCAs suspended after fight in cafeteria

By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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Two Nakuru ward representatives who engaged in a fist fight in the assembly’s cafeteria have been suspended for 90 days.

Ms Joyce Anyiso and Ms Jackline Wangeci Manyara, both Jubilee Party nominated MCAs, argued and exchanged obscenities before the scuffle. They were separated by Assembly orderlies and other MCAs.

At the same time, in a communication to the Assembly on Wednesday evening, the Power and Privileges committee suspended four other nominated MCAs from the party and one elected MCA for gross misconduct.

TRADED INSULTS

While reading the riot act, Speaker Joel Maina Kairu said the MCAs put the assembly’s image into question by engaging in fights and insults.

Mr Douglas Ayabei (Mariashoni MCA) and Ms Ann Kimani (nominated) traded insults during a Jubilee consultative meeting at the branch headquarters in Milimani Estate on July 5.

The two were ordered to apologise to the assembly and the party. Mr Ayabei was subsequently suspended from plenary and committee meetings for two weeks while Ms Kimani will stay away for three weeks.

CHAPTER SIX

In a second incident, nominated MCAs Elizabeth Gichuki and Catherine Kamau were accused of gross misconduct on July 29 at the Great Rift Valley Lodge before the executive and colleagues.

Ms Kamau is accused of insulting Ms Gichuki causing a nuisance. She was suspended for three weeks.

“Ms Kamau violated the laws and Chapter Six of Leadership and Integrity as enshrined in the Constitution,” said the Speaker.

In the third incident, Ms Gichuki and nominated MCA Susan Njuguna, on July 5 at the cafeteria, traded insults causing a scene at the premises.


Study links C-sections to low breastfeeding

By ANGELA OKETCH
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The rise in elective caesarean section has led to a decrease in breastfeeding, a report by World Health Organisation has warned.

The report by WHO done across 51 countries revealed that early breastfeeding initiation rates are significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section.

This, it says, was interfering with the growth and survival of the babies.

Data by WHO revealed that three in five babies are not breastfed within the first hour of life, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.

SUPPORT MOTHERS

“Most women after elective caesarean section, they are either recovering from anaesthetic drugs or are in pain and cannot breastfeed their children. This is hindering all the benefits that have been made so far,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.

He adds: “Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life. We must urgently scale up support to mothers so they can give their children the start they deserve immediately they are born.”

The report notes that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences.

FIRST VACCINE

Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulates the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.

According to WHO, newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33 per cent greater risk of dying compared to those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth.

Among newborns who started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high.

The global health agency gave an example of Egypt where caesarean section rates doubled from 20 per cent to 52 per cent between 2005 and 2014 and during the same period, rates of early initiation of breastfeeding decreased from 40 to 27 per cent.

SH1.2 BILLION

They agency reported that the same was being experienced in other countries as well saying that only 19 per cent of babies born by C-section were breastfed in the first hour after birth, compared to 39 per cent of babies born by natural delivery.

The Ministry of Health has warned of the dramatic rise of unintended C-section.

Last year, the National Hospital Insurance Fund’s pay-outs for caesarean-section births hit Sh1.2 billion.


Families to pave way for Sh4.8bn Mwache dam project

By KAZUNGU SAMUEL
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More than 4,000 people who will be affected by the construction of the Sh14.8 billion Mwache dam project will be compensated before the project starts next year.

Officer in charge of the project management unit Simon Mwangi said in an interview on Wednesday that designs and bidding for the project is expected to be completed soon.

“In several weeks to come, we expect to finalise on the designs and bidding for the project, but since there are many stakeholders and other players involved in this project, we expect the take off to begin early next year,” Mr Mwangi said.

He said that compensation plans are currently going on and are being overseen by the Water ministry. He said once the project is completed, it will end perennial water shortage in both Mombasa and Kwale counties by pumping 196,000 litres of water daily.

Coast Water Services Board CEO Jacob Torrut said that they are currently finalising on tender documents for treatment works and transmission that will cut across Mombasa North and Mombasa South including Changamwe.

He said although the project is under their jurisdiction, it is being implemented by the national government because it is a huge one.

COMPENSATION

“We are mandated with preparing the designs for the treatment works and transmission mains from Mwache to the rest of the two counties (Mombasa and Kwale), this segment being funded by World Bank and Agence Francaise De Development (AFD),” said Mr Torrut.

He further said that the construction of the dam is expected to take between four and five years and will be one of the biggest in Kenya.

On Tuesday, during the commissioning of the multi-billion shillings Devki Steel manufacturing plant in Kinango, Kwale governor Salim Mvurya called for compensation for those who will be affected by the construction of the dam.

IDENTIFICATION

Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari said that locals must be compensated and also considered for jobs before the project takes off.

“We want the locals to be compensated for their land loss following the construction of that dam. We also ask the government to consider them for jobs instead of outsiders,” Mr Tayari said.

In July last year, the National Land Commission was given Sh150 million by then Water and Irrigation CS Eugene Wamalwa to begin compensation for the residents whose land will be used for the construction for the multi-purpose dam.

Speaking in an interview on Thursday, NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri said they are currently on the preliminary stage of identifying the affected persons in readiness for the compensation.

“We are still at the preliminary stage and in fact what we have done is that we have only given out a notice of intention to acquire the land. That is all at the moment,” said Prof Swazuri.

NLC has said in its website that residents will be compensated for crops, structures and land to pave way for construction of the dam.

“The project will require 1,600 acres of land and will involve displacement of approximately 4,250 persons whose assets and livelihoods may be affected, as well as access to natural or economic resources as a result of activities under the Mwache dam project,” NLC said.


KDF soldier in IED blast to be buried in Lamu County

By KALUME KAZUNGU
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A KDF soldier who died shortly after being airlifted to Nairobi for treatment will be buried in Kiunga, Lamu County, on Friday. Senior Private Ali Athman Shee Shalima was among those in the vehicle that ran over an improvised explosive device (IED) at Kwa Omollo Bridge on the Bodhei-Bar’goni road on Wednesday. He was attached to the Bar’goni Military Camp Special Unit and had been in the army since 2009. He is survived by a wife and two children.

The family gathered in Lamu town on Thursday to begin their boat journey to Kiunga, where he will be buried Friday.

DISCIPLINED

“The body has already left the Memorial Forces Hospital in Nairobi and will be flown straight to Kiunga for burial today. That’s why we are going there to make preparations for the burial this morning,” his aunt, Ms Mariam Shee Bakari, told the Nation.

Ms Bakari, who sponsored Shalima’s secondary education, described him as humble, calm and disciplined, adding that his death was a big blow to the family.

“His father and mother are old. His father was a fisherman but can no longer work due to his age. Ali, the second-born in a family four children, was the family’s sole breadwinner,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ali’s cousin Answar Salim described him as a friendly person.

DEPENDANTS

“We grew up together. He was hard-working. He was also a man of few words but very focused. Ali assumed the role of first born after his older brother died. His family was completely dependent on him. He was depended fully by the family. May his soul rest in peace,” said Mr Answar, a police officer at the Lamu Police Station.

Shalima’s brother, Mr Famau Athman, was overcome by emotions.

Meanwhile, the search for the suspected Al-Shabaab militants has intensified.

Speaking to the on phone on Wednesday evening, Kenya Defence Forces spokesperson Paul Njuguna there were enough security officers were on the ground pursuing the attackers.

Earlier, Mr Njuguna had said that no soldier died the IED explosion, but that six had been injured, two of them critically.

“I am surprised at the information I am seeing on social media insinuating that some officers have died when that is not the case. It was just an IED and not an attack as such. During the incident, six of our officers were injured, two critically. We have already airlifted them to Nairobi for treatment. We have also intensified crackdown for the attackers on the ground. The situation has been managed,” said Col Njuguna.


GAA was a terrible idea that should be disbanded right now

By MUTUMA MATHIU
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I have never thought much of the Government Advertising Agency, I’ll be the first to confess. Also, in fairness, when other folks just shut up and put up, I never stopped howling at the wind. My objection was ideological and practical, not personal. Many of the folks who work in the ICT ministry are my friends and former colleagues, some of whom I have known for decades.

I believe that democracy is the best form of government. I believe in freedom — including to speak one’s mind freely and openly. I believe in a free press and its role in good transparent government and the progress of Man.

This is in my DNA. Among the tribes from which I come, a man is a free being. He has the absolute right to govern himself, his woman (I’ll not say women), his children, his cattle and his lands (my women friends and relatives will promote me to glory for that). Every man has an equal right to participate in communal decision making and to have his views listened to — respectfully — and taken into consideration. Unfortunately, some of my kinsmen have taken this outsized sense of autonomy to the extreme and become quite violent if they perceive themselves to have been disrespected.

I believe in a fairly regulated, free market economy in which the government leaves business to citizens and where we get services and opportunities in exchange for our taxes. I believe in free and fair elections. I believe in the equality of all Kenyans, irrespective of tribe or gender.

The concept of GAA flies in the face of all these values. It is backward thinking. First of all, it involves the government setting up an operation to go into business in competition with companies, many of them SMEs. Whenever government goes into business, in the majority of the cases, the result is corruption, poor services and debt. The government should focus on its core business, minding the common welfare, and not stray into media buying.

ANTI-DEMOCRATIC

Secondly, I was right: The justification given at the launch of GAA that it was a means to saving money was a hoax. Racking up debts of Sh2.5 billion is not saving money. It is chaotic, unlawful and unfair conduct where the government, in effect, robs the taxpaying citizens: It takes goods and services from the people and refuses to pay for them.

The secret motive behind GAA, to use advertising as leverage to cover up bad behaviour, is anti-democratic. Anyone telling you there can be democracy without a free and vibrant media is new to the theory. All those politicians, including Donald Trump, who don’t know the function of the media and imagine that TV stations and newspapers exist to sing praise, are not democrats. They should not be ashamed to say what they are.

MISMANAGEMENT

The mismanagement of GAA is a big embarrassment to the government — unless the government and those who run it no longer have any shame — in the eyes of the public and its international partners. It is a bad thing when citizens get to a point where they consider their government dishonest and uncreditworthy.

The government, and the country, is better off without GAA. It should be disbanded and the good people who work for it given alternative jobs. Let government departments manage their own media buying and their own budgets. And if the government wants leverage with the media, let it lobby and use good science and other management approaches.

DISTORTIONS

But the communication sector is just a small part of the government debt situation. Both county governments and the Jubilee government are simply not fond of honouring contracts and paying debts. In 2013, Jubilee started on a good note by setting aside a proportion of government tenders for youth, women and the disabled. Has it paid them?

By some estimates, the government now owes suppliers Sh200 billion. As the Daily Nation reported, this is causing distortions in the financial sector, pushing up bad debt by Sh28 billion. Not to mention untold suffering.

PROSECUTION

The newspapers are full of adverts of vehicles and other machinery being auctioned because folks who did work for the government, particularly the counties, were not paid and, therefore, can’t service their loans. The Daily Nation has done stories of desperate Kenyans whose lives have been destroyed by a cruel system that takes their sweat but won’t pay for it.

But there is good news for all those suffering Kenyans, I think. The decision by Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji to order investigations into the Ministry of ICT, and GAA, for failure to honour contracts and pay debts is a great development. It gives life to the provisions in the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act, which demand of public officials that they manage public resources prudently and respect contracts.

A way must be found for the thousands of fearful Kenyans, who have been suffering in silence, to come out and seek relief in the courts. As for those officials who have played with the lives of innocent people, it is only fair that they be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

It is better for you to give tenders to your friends and family, by all means knock yourselves out, than to offer work to the public which you then don’t pay for.


Technology disruption looms for housing sector

By DENNIS MEMUSI
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When you take a quick look at the real estate industry, technology isn’t the first attribute that comes to mind. Scratching the surface, however, will reveal that Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly changing how things are done in this industry.

In the past, when one talked about upgrades to buildings and properties, they would typically think about remodelling the kitchen or getting a new set for the dining room. Nowadays, however, these upgrades come in the form of smaller, powerful gadgets, such as smart lights, smart thermostats and cameras.

FUTURISTIC

These add value to the home and can go to the extent of creating a futuristic feel. That has been made possible through the IoT — which simply refers to everyday objects that are connected to the internet for the purpose of monitoring, managing and gathering data from them.

Disruptive innovations in the digital divide are already fuelling the growth of smart real estate products and processes. This is making buildings to be more intelligent. Smart home solutions and providers, as well, are on the rise. Buildings and the surrounding environment generate data every second, everyday.

CONVINIENTLY

Through IoT, this data can be processed to provide value-added insights that can be used to provide real estate product consumers with automated solutions that will simplify their day-to-day activities and allow them to enjoy life. By detecting your habits, IoT will create a better living experience.

For example, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can be used in such a way that it senses the ambient temperature and the homeowner’s schedule and, in turn, makes adjustments before the occupant enters the house. You can control temperature, lighting and security, and more conveniently, from your smartphone.

PREFERENCES

A smart security system can improve the safety of the house by sensing and analysing regular activities in the house and thereby notifying the owner of any irregularities. With the current system, when there is a break-in, the alarm goes off and notifies the external surveillance to attend to this.

That is not a bad thing. However, with IoT, it can be better. A notification can be immediately sent to you and the nearest firefighting station, making the response more efficient.

IoT can actively ‘learn’ about a customer’s behaviour pattern — where they spend their time and their preferences for houses based on search and house visits. With this actionable information, real estate firms can, in turn, streamline their operations and have design layouts that meet consumers’ tastes and preferences.

NOTIFICATIONS

Home buying need not be complicated. With IoT, developers and buyers can adopt beacon technology, whereby houses on sale are equipped with ‘beacons’ that send push notifications to potential buyers with specifications about the property.

With several properties under the mandate, it can be difficult to have a top-down real-time view of the property. But IoT can simplify this to enhance decision making. From the point of view of developers, homeowners and potential customers, it can assist in making better decisions, and faster too.

CONSUMPTION

You don’t have to call someone to have them switch off lights that you left on by mistake. You also probably want to get a heads-up before or as soon as a light bulb or lift is not operational.

IoT, coupled with analytics, can record patterns of operation, initiate predictive and preventive maintenance and capture energy consumption patterns. It can then come up with a plan to enforce better and more efficient energy consumption.

For example, it can automatically turn off electronics that the owner left on and turn them back on when the owner is at the entrance of the house.

In this age of innovation, buildings and properties need to have the capacity to work in alignment with your business and personal objectives. What if your building had the capability to work with you and understand your trends so as to optimise your environment? This is the IoT real estate promise.

INTEROPERABILITY

Disruption is coming to the real estate industry. Firms need to align their processes and products to factor in IoT into them. There are some bumps in the road before the disruptions happen, such as the privacy of data collected and lack of interoperability of devices, but it is worth noting that the physical and digital worlds are merging.

IoT is going to propel the real estate industry in a technology-based operation. Whether you are on the real estate side or the technology side, there is a need to start investing in IoT.