Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
I recently read somewhere that, in Zambia, the government has become quite hungry for money and that — like us — the administration in Lusaka has resorted to introducing all manner of taxes.
The Zambian government has introduced taxes on boreholes, internet calls and even weather reports.
I found myself comparing the Zambian situation with the trends and prevailing conditions.
Here, the government has just introduced taxes on essentials, including VAT on petroleum products and agro-chemicals, excise duty on mobile money transfers and bank charges and duty on inter-bank transfers.
In the name of introducing modern taxes and reducing reliance on traditional taxes such as income tax, sales tax and customs duty, we are now in a situation where the taxman will catch you at the ATM, nail you when you make an over-the-counter withdrawal at your bank and even grab a pound of flesh from you as you make that urgent call on your mobile telephone to your mother in the village.
It will raid your pocket as you browse at an internet café and nail you as you watch your favourite football team play a match in the comfort of your living room on SuperSport, GOtv or Safaricom Data.
It used to be the case that ‘sin taxes’ — mainly excise duties — were mostly imposed on socially prescribed goods and services such as alcohol, hard liquor, cigarettes, beer and other forms of goods of ostentation. Sin taxes are supposed to control anti-social behaviour. Today, the logic has been made to stand on its head.
Which is why I ask: What sin have I committed? Where is the anti-social behaviour when all I do is to send money to my sick mother in the village by M-Pesa? Is it not incredible that, over and above what we pay in VAT on talk-time and mobile money transfers, we still have to pay excise duty on what has become an essential service that is consumed by millions of people?
Which brings me back to the report which I read on Zambia.
I drew many parallels between the economic situation in Lusaka and what I see here.
ENGAGED IN A SPLURGE
I read that the government there has, in the past few years, been engaged in a splurge on new roads, hospital, railways, airports — all funded by the Chinese — and expanded the number of administrative districts from 72 to 115, in the process doubling the civil service wage bill in just a few years.
Here, we created 47 counties and the Senate, expanded the National Assembly and introduced many new constitutional commissions.
Like Zambia, the Kenyan government has been on a spending spree — building roads, the SGR, power transmission networks, rural electrification schemes and dams, all mainly funded by the Chinese.
In Zambia, debt has rapidly accumulated with 50 per cent of it denominated in foreign currency. We are more or less in the same situation, where half of our debt is also external and mainly owed to Chinese and the Western institutions who invested in the Eurobond.
Zambia has issued three Eurobonds — $750 million in 2012, $1 billion in 2014 and $ 1.25 billion in 2015. Debt repayment is putting enormous pressure on government finances. While the largest budget expenditure item of the government in the past used to be education, today it is debt repayment.
In Kenya, we have issued two Eurobonds — $ 2.75 million in 2014 and $2 billion in 2018. Our debt servicing budget is huge with repayments with interest eating up over 20 per cent of national revenues.
Just as the case here, long delays in payment of contractors by the Zambian government has caused massive pending bills. Also like here, pressures caused by large arrears to the private sector have precipitated an upsurge of non-performing loans in the banking system.
Again, as is the case in Kenya, the Chinese dominate financing and the building of mega infrastructure projects in Zambia. Typically, loans and opaque deals are agreed with government agencies and Export-Import Bank of China (Exim), which lends to Chinese contractors directly.
Here, loans and opaque deals typically start with the signing of MoUs with Cabinet secretaries, followed by the sealing of financing deals with Exim Bank.
As in Zambia, the loans go directly to the Chinese contractors.
Clearly, the economic conditions and situation in Zambia mirror what is happening in our country in many ways.
Zambia is among the 18 African countries that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has fingered as being in a situation that the Bretton Woods institution categorised as at risk of being in debt distress.
We are surely headed there.
Controversy has dogged the Chinese-built standard gauge railway (SGR) project from day one and is likely to increase.
Another dimension is evolving, that it could be subject to increasing holdups if some of the controversial factors and resultant conflicts are not resolved.
A brief overview is in order.
It is correct that the SGR project is being single-sourced.
However, it is important to note that the proposed project was originally subjected to competitive tendering, in which a European consortium won.
However, for reasons which are best known to those in the decision-making process at the time, the tender was not awarded to the winning bidder. It should also be noted that the cost of the tendered SGR was considerably cheaper than the one we are getting.
One lesson to be learnt is that competitive tendering, in conjunction with strict quality specs, is a much cheaper and more transparent route. It can also be argued that, if we had done it for this and other projects that were single-sourced, our ever-ballooning international debt would be significantly lower. One caveat that must be added is, the above must be subject to public scrutiny throughout.
As a going concern, the Syokimau-Mombasa SGR route is losing money both on passengers and commercial cargo. In short, it is spending more money than it is earning on its day-to-day operation alone. If one was to include loan repayments and interest, the losses would normally result in most such operations being put into liquidation. It is also being subject to abnormally high expatriate labour, in the form of over 5,000 Chinese workers.
The controversy is now spreading to the adverse environmental, health and social effects of the construction of the railway in Kibiko, Kisamese and Ol Choro-Onyore areas of Kajiado County as the project gets well into its second phase.
First, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the section running through or beside the Nairobi National Park was a sham. Any EIA has a strict provision for input and feedback from all in the affected areas and the public as provided for under Regulation 17 of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act. If that was done, a number of concerns would have arisen prior rather than during the process.
Another is intrusion into private property and, indeed, damage to it.
This was not just a case of the contractor asking for access to someone’s land but forced entry — against a fundamental tenet of the Constitution. Legal Gazette Notice 12526 of December 22, 2017 of the government’s intention to acquire parcels of land in Kiambu, Kajiado, Nakuru and Narok counties came after the Chinese Communications Construction Company had already started work on some of these parcels.
That often resulted in works such as geotechnical survey, beacon placement and even establishment of access roads on private land without the prior consent of the owners.
It is also resulting in a lot of disturbance to the residents of those areas, who are subjected to the dust, noise and vibration from quarry crushers and blasting activities.
This is often in tandem with overuse of roads and bridges by heavy duty construction vehicles and inadequate waste management on the various sites which, in turn, puts at risk basic public health safety norms and requirements for the areas around them.
Anyone who has come across the relevant vehicles will attest to the fact that they are often driven terrifyingly fast with scant regard for basic road safety requirements.
Another major environmental hazard is the damage to the hydrological table of the whole area of Kerarapon and Kibiko.
The tunnelling activities of the CCCC encountered significant water flows and, according to the Kerarapon Residents Association, “the contractor’s action within the tunnel logically explains the sudden drop in our water levels at the springs”.
Efforts to obtain hydrological or seismology survey reports has borne little fruit though they should be available for public inspection and interrogation and are a legal obligation.
Whilst one cannot argue against some of the more laudable objectives of the SGR, the way it has been conducted — from opaque agreements to the cost and the work on the ground — is a dark stain on the governments at the helm.
Once again, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has published a damning report on the level of graft in the country.
Generally, citizens believe they cannot get service from government departments or county offices without paying a bribe.
Bribery has become so normal that it seems not to worry anyone, which really is an indictment of our systems and the citizens. Nearly a third of the population is willing to give or accept a bribe.
Government tendering has emerged as the most susceptible service for bribery.
Not only do the bidders give a bribe before getting contracts but it attracts the highest amount, averaging Sh103,000.
Given the diversity of tenders, this average simplify demonstrate that huge amounts change hands, which explains two things. One, the costs of contracts are high and, two, quality of service is deplorable. Bidders are compelled to raise their quotations to accommodate kickbacks to officials. Conversely, they have to cut corners when executing contracts to make a profit.
That explains why most projects are poorly executed, incur high costs and stretch over a long period of time. Ultimately, it is the taxpayer who loses out, especially the vulnerable groups. Jobseekers, building contractors as well as government employees seeking transfers are the other lot of high bribe givers.
Like before, the report spotlights Interior Ministry as the most corrupt.
Chiefs, police officers, registrar of persons and immigration officials rank high among the bribe takers. This is no longer news; it has become the norm. That should worry us.
Does it mean that some departments or offices are irredeemable? Can’t we rein in this notoriously corrupt lot and end the vice?
Broadly, what the report shows is that the country has lost the fight against corruption. It has become institutionalised and an accepted way of life. The challenge with corruption is that it is self-feeding. It starts from the top and percolates down the top the lowest level. Fighting it, therefore, must start from the top.
Unfortunately, the government has pledged numbers on end to crack down on corruption; that it would undertake joint initiatives involving various agencies — EACC, investigators, the police and other specialised agencies — to get rid of graft and sleaze. However, that flies in the face of the reality on the ground.
It is not enough for EACC to conduct surveys and publicise reports. What we want is definitive action. EACC and all other responsible agencies must move away from profiling to hunting down and reining in the corrupt. We have seen concrete steps in recent months to investigate and seize the corrupt.
Let’s intensify the momentum and nail down the corrupt and end the vice.
I avidly read Kipchumba Some’s feature titled, ‘’Genesis of Maasai Kalenjin bitter Conflict Over Land’’ (Sunday Nation,30th September 2018)and would like to further shed more light on the origin of the institution of Orkoiyot or Oloibon in Kalenjin and Maasai respectively based on my Egyptological studies.
The Institution of Orokoiyot/Oloibon came be traced to ancient Jewish and pre-Hellenistic Greece communities because of a number of reasons. The Jewish prophets were named as “Rocks” a tradition passed down to Kalenjin. Jesus referred to Peter as Cephas meaning “Rock”(John 1:42) while Jesus is called Rock of Ages which confluences with Kalenjin naming of their prophets like Koitalel(arap Samoei) meaning white Rock, Koilegen(Kipchomber) meaning spotted Rock, Kobogoi/Koitaba (stone for grinding millet), Lwanda (Rwanda) Magere meaning blind Rock. Surprisingly, the pre-Hellenistic Greek rendering of Orkoiyot is arkhont which later spawned such terms like ‘royal), ruoth in Luo,ruodh in Nuer, royaune in French,regal in Romania,regiis in Latin and remotely Morathi in Kikuyu.etc . All these terms have the same embryonic origin with Orkoiyoot(royalty).
From ancient Egypt where the institution was born and natured, it later gained currency in the past centuries between the Kalenjin ,Maasai and Kikiuyu .Kipchumba wrote,quoting sources that the first Oloibon(royal leader) was a Maasai which I dispute. According to Kaputiei Maasai, the first Orkoiyoot or Oloibon was a young boy named Lumenya who was found by warriors from Illaiser clan sitting still near Ngong forest. When he was asked what he was doing, he replied in Nandi, Elamenyeu (this is where I live) and the Maasai thought his name was Lumenya from the action of his stay there. As a boy, how command dry streams to have water flowing and in standard four books of the 70s/80s , he is pictured with a pot on his head full of water in a dry place. Lumenya had a magical box called Enkidong and the family he later founded constituted a sub-clan called Inkidong’.
Lumenya bore Lesikiriaisi who bore Kidong’oli Kipetete who was succeded by Parnyombe who became the father of Sitonik whose eldest son was Supeet whose successor to the box Mbatian(Mbata in Kikuyu).Mbatiany had two sons,Senteu and Olonana.
The Kalenjin Orkoik can be traced to Muoki, a Maasai woman who has escaped Maasai killings in Laikipia and sought refuge among the Talai clan of the Kipsigis and Nandi. Muoki finally found refuge in a cave in Olesos in Nandi County where lions mysteriously came to stay with her and providing meat until she gave birth to twins, Barsobotwo and Kobogoi who became the eponymous founders of Orkoiyot clan in Nandi and Kipsigis.
They later multiplied and gave us the likes of Koitalel araap Samoei and araap Koiyoki who was later captured by Iluansi Nkishu Maasai and later had a son named Koiyaki Timale ole Lemotaka who begat Waiyaki wa Hinga who later went and rose to become a Kikuyu leader till he was buried alive by the Europeans in Kibwezi on August 17, 1891.
Waiyaki married an Ogioot(Dorobo) wife named Tiebo from Kabete. Waiyaki is Kikuyu rendering of Koiyaki the son of araap Koiyoki.
The institution of Oloibon is also found among the Kabaka of Uganda, the family of Chadian President, Idris Deby , the clan of former Ethiopian emperor Haile Sellassie – their totem like the Orkoiyot is lion.
In 1899, Benjamin Helz Theodre,the founder of political Zionism visited Eldoret with possibilities of establishing a Jewish state there, possibly with hopes reconnecting with the families of the Orkoiyot- a story that has never been brought forth.
WELDON ARAP KIRUI, Egyptologist, Narok.
Kenya has in recent months witnessed a wave of killings that has left many citizens shocked and terribly worried.
Almost every other day, we hear of one gruesome murder after another, carried out either by hired hitmen or killers driven by motives only known to themselves.
These incidents have left families, friends and associates of the victims devastated and crying out for justice.
In a number of the cases, arrests have been made and the suspects taken to court and their fate lies in the hands of the criminal justice system.
The most logical expectation is that investigators have done a thorough job and presented watertight evidence that will withstand the rigours and demands of the criminal process.
The history of murder trials in this country is not flattering. In many cases, some involving high-profile individuals as victims, the prosecution could not meet the high threshold set by the law to secure convictions for murder, leading to the release of the suspects.
But the prosecution only relies on evidence collected, analysed and interpreted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). In many trials, it is let down by shoddy investigations, complicity and corruption and lack of resources and modern facilities for forensic tests. Evidence and scenes of crime have also been tampered with.
For the DCI to meet the high expectations of Kenyans, it has to be fully equipped to tackle the increasingly complex murders that we are witnessing.
Similarly, the personnel deployed in the agency must be sufficiently trained and motivated to carry out their work diligently.
Only then will those inclined to commit murder get the loud and clear message that there will be no escape from the long arm of the law.
Today is the Day of German Unity, when, 28 years ago, Germany, which had been forcibly split into West and East republics, was reunited.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led to the opening of the Communist regime to international negotiations on reunification.
But it was not brought about by external forces but the citizens, who held peaceful demonstrations triggered by bad governance, restriction of personal liberties, economic decline and collapse of the Communist bloc.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
The eastern German uprising reminds us of the fundamental values of democracy, freedom of speech and rule of law that Kenya and Germany share in their constitutions.
Personally, I remember those moments vividly as I grew up and studied in former East Germany. Had it not been for this shining hour of democratic resistance and recovery of civic liberties, I would most likely not have joined the Foreign Service and, ultimately, the German Ambassador to Kenya.
During my first weeks in Nairobi, I have noticed the vibrancy of Kenyan society, its unique blend of modern technology and traditional lifestyles.
Coming from a country facing serious challenges of an ageing population, one cannot overlook the great amount of young people eager to find work, study hard or have founded start-ups.
Germany creates jobs for young people by offering methods of education that connect theoretical knowledge with practical skills and training within companies, making it have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe.
We are preparing a joint programme of technical training with Kenyan companies and technical and vocational training and education (TVET) institutions and establishment of an East African-German University for Applied Sciences.
Initiatives include motivating young Kenyans to engage in politics and teaching them agricultural skills.
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
My aim is to establish a mutual understanding of Kenyan and German concerns and hopes and to see where we can best support Kenya in its efforts for the future.
One of these efforts at present is the fight against corruption. We very much welcome the determined steps taken by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The misuse of public resources can never be seen as a legitimate action and those who have committed crimes of corruption should be held accountable.
The German government is ready to continue its advisory programmes to Kenyan institutions, tackling what is probably the major obstacle to economic and social development.
Finally, the regional office of the German Academic Exchange Service in Nairobi — one of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa — offers scholarships to young Kenyans. Among numerous other German institutions are the German School, the Goethe-Institut and the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce. I look forward to working with those institutions and strengthening our cultural exchanges.
Kenya has great potential, an inspiring creativity and abundant natural beauty. I am, therefore, very eager to get to know its people, landscapes and culture over the coming years.
A few months ago, a friend who runs a bar and restaurant business in Nairobi’s Eastlands narrated to me a story that could have passed as ‘bar talk’ were it not for the dangerous ramifications it could have on a larger scale.
He was having a drink with five friends at his premises, an estate hangout where everybody knows everyone else, when two men walked in and took what looked like strategic positions.
Two months earlier, armed gangsters had raided the bar, leaving my friend a few hundred-thousand shillings poorer and a number of his customers injured and without their mobile phones.
The attackers had spent some hours at the bar, posing as customers. So, when my friend and his company noticed what the police refer to as “suspicious characters”, their natural reaction was to inform the security agents. After a few minutes of hushed consultations at his table, he sneaked out and walked to the neighbouring police post, a kilometre away, to report the “security threat”.
But that turned out to be a very expensive mistake.
The officers demanded that my friend hire a taxi to ferry them to the bar. He complied, and he and four officers squeezed into the five-seater car.
On arrival at the bar, the officers had a brief chat with the suspicious guests. They then turned the heat on the bar owner and his friends with wild accusations — from giving false information to security officers to making alarming statements and wasting precious police time.
What was supposed to be a discrete report was turned into massive drama. Soon, the officers summoned a police van that arrived in a record five minutes and my friend, his companions and other customers who expressed sympathy for them were hauled into it. They were driven to the police post and tossed into its tiny smelly cell. The officers then started making demands for money, with the threat of arraignment.
It was a Friday night; so, the earliest they could be presented in court was on Monday — some two long days and nights away. My friend made several desperate fundraising calls and, two hours later, they were released after parting with Sh20,000. He swore never to report any incident to the police ever again.
Last weekend, another friend in the same neighbourhood had an accident with his car. By the time he was finished with the police, whom he had called, and got an abstract, he was Sh3,000 poorer. He says he would rather had driven on and repaired his car than being the good citizen and calling the police!
On Monday, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) released the results of a survey that indicated that the number of Kenyans paying a bribe to get services had risen over the past year. It also indicated, for the umpteenth time, that the Interior ministry, the parent ministry of security agencies, is the most corrupt institution in the country.
No news there, really. What should worry us, however, is the survey’s revelation that Kenyans, like my two friends, are required to pay a bribe to make a report! According to the survey, Kenyans paid an average of Sh2,737 to report a crime or write a statement.
This is a serious threat to national security, which should be urgently addressed and with more seriousness than just a mention in a survey report.
That, as the countrywide survey established, one is expected to have money in the pocket to inform the police of a potential case of insecurity is more dangerous than the cause of that insecurity itself.
In a country where more than 60 percent of the population survives on less than Sh92 a day, it means that, to afford reporting a crime, most Kenyans will have to save everything they earn for 30 days. It means that more than 27 million Kenyans will not report threats to national security to the authorities. It means that the fight against crime is lost before it even begins.
Small wonder, then, that terrorist organisations find it easy to penetrate and reside among us.
That the country’s intelligence agencies and other anti-terrorism units do a great job countering merchants of death within and without our borders is not in doubt.
But their work is not made any easier by police officers — naturally, the first port of call for civilians in case of danger — when they demand an illegal payment to receive information.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta and the EACC continue with the renewed onslaught against grand corruption, special attention should be given to the deceptively minor incidents of graft perpetrated by a few but widely situated police officers. It is the greatest threat to the country’s existence.
Mr Mugwang’a, a communications consultant, is a former crime and security reporter. [email protected] @mykeysoul
Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has blamed Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria for the protracted water crisis facing the county.
He said the governor’s administration has interfered with the management of water services, leaving the county with inadequate supply of the precious commodity.
The CS told a Senate committee that the misunderstanding over the control and management of provision of water services between the county government and water firms is the source of the woes the county has been facing in the last few months.
WORLD BANK WITHDRAWS FUNDS
As a result of the wrangles, the CS said, the World Bank has withdrawn a Sh130 million facility that was meant to support Murang’a Water Services Company (Muwasco) to expand infrastructure to the lower parts of the county.
“The governor has misled consumers into believing that water can be provided for free. This is not attainable,” Mr Chelugui told the Committee on Lands, Environment and Natural Resources.
The committee had invited the CS to explain the raging war that has seen the county go without water amid confusion on the management of the commodity.
TAKE OVER MUWASCO
A month ago, the governor declared his intention to take over the management of Muwasco, saying water is a devolved function.
He also accused the management of water firms in Murang’a of embezzling funds and failing to deliver quality services to residents despite taking loans running into billions of shillings. Mr wa Iria further replaced Muwasco Chairman Peter Munga with Joseph Kimura in an acting capacity.
The CS told the committee it is wrong for thousands of people to suffer because of differences between two individuals.
“The county government has pursued illegal actions, key among them attempted firing of company directors and staff without following due process, disruption of the firm’s activities such as tampering with pipelines and other infrastructure, confiscation of office equipment and rendering inaccessible offices by blocking the entrance,” he said.
Noting that the ministry has engaged the county leadership on implementation of water projects, he said the governor has never shown any interest in participating in the consultation regardless of the invitations.
Scientists have developed a new HIV drug available in powder form.
The drug, according to researchers, is effective and ideal for children and is in its last stages of formulation.
Dr Olawale Salami — the clinical project manager, Paedetric HIV, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative — said paediatric patients have been neglected for long and this was derailing the fight against HIV.
“In as much as mother-to-child transmission has reduced tremendously globally, the infected children have been left out. They cannot swallow the existing drugs and that’s why it is important to come up with the formulation,” Dr Salami said.
Dr Salami was speaking Monday during an international conference for researchers.
The current drug available for children is in syrup form, which is very bitter.
The pellet contains 40 percent alcohol. It is also expensive and requires special storage and transportation considerations.
Unpalatable medication has been a hindrance to viral load suppression in children, thereby increasing possibility of children becoming severely ill.
However, the powder formulation is safe, easy to administer and heat-stable.
The powder is a combination of three currently available HIV paediatric drugs combined with a booster drug.
County governments are performing dismally in some critical devolved functions, a report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has revealed.
The National Ethics and Corruption Survey, 2017 shows 52 percent of Kenyans rated the devolved governments poorly in the provision of firefighting services and disaster management.
Another 50 percent of respondents in 5,977 households interviewed between September 18 and October 24 in 2017 said the county administrations were performing poorly in the control of drugs and pornography, while 43 per cent cited poor services in water and sanitation and storm water management systems.
Other functions where performance was poor were ensuring and coordinating participation of communities and locations in governance (42 per cent), cultural activities (39.70 per cent), agriculture (39.30 per cent), control of air and noise pollution (38.40 per cent) and county health services, facilities and cemeteries (38 percent).
Respondents also felt the counties were not doing well in forestry and soil conservation, corroborating an earlier finding by a 14-member task force reviewing forestry management, which showed counties are yet to take charge of specific forestry functions identified by the Constitution.
The taskforce had in May found that only 17 out of the 47 counties had signed the Transition Implementation Plans to facilitate the transfer of functions related to management of community and private forests.
On water and sanitation, the Council of Governors (CoG) recently blamed inadequate financing, high non-revenue water and other outstanding issues as impediments to attaining universal water coverage.
CoG boss Josephat Nanok said in his state of devolution address that an inter-governmental framework on water has been signed to ensure coordination and collaboration between the two levels of government in the sector.
The latest EACC statistics are compounded by the fact that departments under which these functions fall were rated as the most prone to corruption.
The Finance and Planning Department, which disburses funds to implement these functions, was the most prone to graft at 18 per cent. It was closely followed by county health services at 15.2 per cent, transport department at 12.6 per cent and public works department at 11.7 per cent. The county planning department ranked fourth at eight per cent while the public service board followed at 6.7 per cent.
A majority of Kenyans at 43.6 per cent feel that governors are not committed to the fight against corruption and promotion of ethical conduct in the public service while only 30 per cent feel they do.
“The survey also collected information on the level of confidence in stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in the fight against corruption and promotion of sound ethical conduct. At least 51.7 per cent have no confidence in county governments to fight corruption and unethical conduct,” the report said.
Last week, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa asked county bosses to fully embrace the national government’s anti-corruption campaign to tame wastage and embezzlement of public funds.