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Monday, October 15th, 2018

 

Premise ‘Big Four’ on a robust national quality infrastructure

By KARAU MURIIRA
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For Kenya to achieve President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship ‘Big Four’ agenda, a coherent and effective national quality infrastructure anchored on internationally established parameters is needed.

That refers to all aspects of metrology, standardisation, testing and quality management, including certification and accreditation, for both public and private institutions, and the regulatory framework within which they operate. These five components are the hallmark of the quality of products and services and build confidence in the production and service industry.

Cultivation and entrenchment of a culture of unequivocal and unbroken chain of processes in all socio-economic processes will guarantee production and consumption of quality products and services.

A strong total quality infrastructure will enable the country to attain the quality requirements demanded by local and international markets, spurring growth in trade and industry. It forms the link between international standards and technical regulations, guarantees reliable measurements and sets up a globally recognised accreditation.

The ultimate goal here is for the products to meet local market requirements — that is, to satisfy consumer needs and also protect human and animal lives and the environment.

The basis of modern trade is technology-intensive manufactured goods, not raw materials. There is a need to add value and determine the quality of the manufactured products. Industries are required to transform effectively and safely the raw materials into premium-value products much sought after by the population.

In the matrix of these processes, quality may be improved or compromised. Similarly, by-products might be harmful and pose a serious threat to life and environment.

This delicate balance between industry-driven trade and quality can be established by a strong quality infrastructure.

Measurements must be reliable and traceable to international standards. This requires well-equipped laboratories for physical and chemical standards, certified reference materials as well as legal and industrial metrology and a system for calibration.

Internationally acceptable standards of products, systems and processes, strengthened by mutual recognition agreements and international accreditation entities, promote international trade. In this regard, the national quality infrastructure helps to break down the technical barriers to trade and promote integration in the world trading system, improves consumer and environmental protection and gives a positive impact on the labour market, income levels and quality of life.

The first component, metrology and testing, has the paramount mandate of implementing science of measurements and its applications through calibration of measuring equipment and testing of chemical or physical characteristics of a product.

Reliable, recognisable and accurate measurement results anchored on the international system of units (SI units) are imperative for making trade decisions and ascertaining product compliance in terms of quality and safety requirements.

CERTIFICATION

Correct declaration of the products’ test composition by a competent lab not only increases sales but promotes development of new products, boosting manufacturing and creating jobs.

Secondly, product and service quality certification, which includes standardisation, certification and accreditation, together with product prices and applications, guarantee competitiveness in national and international markets.

Through competitiveness, enterprises can maintain their national markets. Also, access to new markets allows them to expand and create jobs and higher economic incomes.

The infrastructure can help to ensure legitimate compliance with health, safety and environmental concerns for export and import purposes but also for internal consumption.

Dr Muriira (PhD), a biochemist and quality infrastructure expert, heads the Testing Services Department at the Kenya Bureau of Standards. [email protected]


Ensure new-look NYS really serves youth

By EDITORIAL
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The National Youth Service has dominated the news in recent years because of mismanagement, sloth and sleaze. So much money has been lost at the institution that it has become the poster institution of graft and pilferage. Overhauling its operations to seal all the loopholes for wastage is an imperative.

This is the reason we encourage the fresh attempt at streamlining and revitalising the NYS through a new legal instrument. The Public Service and Youth Affairs ministry has published the NYS Bill, which seeks to strengthen the service through structural, administrative and governance changes. Among others, it seeks to create a council to provide oversight to the management and shield the service from direct interference by the parent ministry.

INTERFERENCE

Recreating the service is paramount. But the reorganisation must go deeper. For starters, the NYS should be divorced from the ministry and made to operate independently; not just with a council but a full-fledged board and whose appointment is done competitively. In effect, it should be insulated from external interference.

Considering its objectives, the NYS is an integral institution that is core to national development. Not only does it offer an opportunity for youth to train and acquire productive skills to secure employment, it has resources and capacity to directly participate in development projects and respond to crises as many cases have illustrated. Add to that the fact that it is a vehicle for instilling discipline and proper work ethos among young people and its potential and viability are vast.

STRUCTURES

However, the experience of the past few years has been astonishing. Grand plans were formulated to convert the NYS into a robust machinery and for which proper funding was given. But as it later transpired, the plans were merely avenues for channelling out money from the public coffers. No proper structures were put in place to manage the resources and oversee execution of projects.

In under three years, two scandals of gigantic proportions have occurred and, although several suspects were charged in court, the cases have not been concluded and the complete picture of the theft and wastage is yet to come to light. Neither were all the suspects apprehended, so they continue to enjoy ill-gotten wealth.

It is pertinent also to review the offerings of this vital service. As constituted, emphasis is on basic trade skills but this ought to be enhanced to transit youth from low-end professional proficiencies to higher-order competences to make them more competitive. It is vital to shield it from fraudsters and put it on a pedestal to foster youth training and general national development.


KDF’s Somalia job crucial

By EDITORIAL
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Nearly eight years since Kenya Defence Forces crossed into Somalia in pursuit of Al-Shabaab terrorists, President Uhuru Kenyatta has made it clear that the troops are not coming back home soon. This is a clear indication that the objectives of the military campaign in the war-torn neighbouring country have not yet been achieved.

Indeed, the stabilisation of the internationally recognised government in Mogadishu remains a big challenge. The consequence is the spillover of insecurity across the border. In the recent past, there have been numerous terrorist attacks in the northeastern region of Kenya. Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties are still under threat from bands of terrorists.

STABILITY EFFORTS

The KDF’s presence in Somalia is an effective strategy to engage the enemy on their own territory. It’s an effective way to keep them at bay. It is also instructive that KDF is operating under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). This has the support of the United Nations, and its sole mission is to help to restore a government in the lawless country.

As an AU and UN member, Kenya has an obligation to support regional peace and stability efforts. Kenya, which shares a long, largely porous border with Somalia, is bound to directly suffer the impact of the jihadist activities. Since the threat that sparked KDF’s entry into Somalia exists, it would be foolhardy to abandon the mission midstream. That would only embolden the enemy.

It is a dangerous but crucial campaign with huge casualties in terms of the KDF soldiers killed in Somalia and increasing attacks on Kenyan territory. This is what has prompted calls for KDF’s withdrawal. But as the President stated, this is not an option now. We must carry on with the mission to liquidate Al-Shabaab.


Neglect vulnerable children and risk the future

By SUSAN OTUOMA
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An anonymous author once wrote that “adoption is when a child grew in its mommy’s heart instead of her tummy”. In all debates about adoption, we should never lose focus of this truth.

I have first-hand experience of the intimacy of adoption. Adoption is not just about paperwork and court appearances, in the same way pregnancy is not only a bulging tummy and morning sickness.

Pregnancy is about a precious baby in the womb and the loving mother bearing that baby. Similarly, adoption is about a special child being conceived in the loving hearts of adoptive parents and being raised by them for life.

BUSINESS VENTURE

When Kenya ratified the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it started reviewing its child laws and recommended comprehensive reforms to align them with CRC’s provisions. That gave birth to the Children Act 2001, which, among other things, provides rules on adoption, foster care, guardianship, children institutions and others related to welfare of children.

There are only five adoption organisations in Kenya; so, it’s relatively easy to audit their operations. Should any exploit adoption as a business venture, the law would take its course.

Adoption services are regulated by the Adoption Committee in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, whose secretary is the Director of Children Services. In 2014, the government enacted an indefinite moratorium on inter-country adoption of Kenyan children by foreigners.

TRAFFICKING ANTIDOTE

There are thousands of abandoned children in the streets and neighbourhoods or in temporary abode in hospitals or children’s homes.

In worst-case scenarios, some children live in exploitative circumstances. Many have no family connections since their relatives cannot be traced. Others have been rejected by their families for reasons including socio-cultural ones.

We need urgent and sustainable solutions to the abandonment and tragic plight of these innocents.

VULNERABLE CHILDREN

In 2014, the ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’, (UNODC) fingered Kenya as a source, transit and destination in human trafficking. Adoption is an antidote to, not enabler of, trafficking. And so are foster care, guardianship, kinship care and other forms of family and community based solutions.

Through such legal means, no child should be left vulnerable and exposed to those who would wish to harm them. Indeed, even our African culture and religious precepts dictate that we must take care of the vulnerable children.

ABANDONING FUTURE

Adoption opens hearts and doors to a vulnerable child who needs the permanent warmth and care of a family. Many beneficiaries go on to make a positive lasting difference in their lives and those of others.

What if Baby Steve Jobs hadn’t found the life-long care that his adoptive parents gave him? The world would have been the poorer because he changed the world through his technological innovations.

A society that abandons vulnerable children is, essentially, abandoning its future. Let’s take care of that vulnerable child through adoption, kinship, institutions or any other legal means.


With the right actions, we can end hunger by 2030

By GABRIEL RUGALEMA
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Today is the World Food Day, dedicated to creating awareness about and inspire action against hunger, food insecurity and poor nutrition.

The annual global event gives us the opportunity to examine the state of food and nutrition in the world, to celebrate the progress made in achieving food security and to renew our commitment to end hunger within the ambit of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 2.

The theme of this year’s celebrations is “Our Actions are Our Future. A Zero-Hunger World by 2030 is Possible”. Zero hunger is not only the global target of SDG 2 but also an ideal that the global community wishes to achieve.

LIVELIHOODS

However, achieving zero hunger is an imperative, given that, after some years of good progress, global hunger is on the rise again.

According to a report by FAO, IFAD, Unicef, WFP and WHO (‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018’), some 821 million people are food-insecure and more than 150 million children stunted. Adult obesity is worsening and more than one in eight adults — 672 million — are obese. Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries.

The hunger situation is worrying and requires urgent actions to accelerate investment in agriculture, improve production and productivity, improve food distribution systems and provide social protection to the most vulnerable in order to strengthen resilience of people’s livelihoods.

The recent report on the food security and nutrition cites the main driver of insecurity as climate variability and extremes. That is compounded by factors such as conflict and economic slowdown.

Hunger is significantly worse in countries with rain-fed, low-technology agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to disruption by conflict, violence and drought.

Although Kenya is not categorised among the severely food-insecure countries, agricultural production and productivity lag far behind population growth. Demand for food far outstrips food production, making the country dependent on imports to cover the deficit.

Since 2011, Kenya has gone through cycles of climate variability extremes, mainly drought and floods. More recently, it went through a severe drought spell in 2016/17 that exposed 3.4 million Kenyans — equal to the population of Nairobi — to severe food insecurity.

As the effect of drought was easing, the country experienced severe flooding that displaced thousands of people, destroyed farms and houses and killed hundreds of livestock, rendering many families food-insecure. Like most African countries, Kenya is not food-secure and it will have to race to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

But as food security and nutrition report shows, challenges have emerged that make it necessary to expand and accelerate efforts to defeat hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition.

RESILIENCE

Political action to achieve peace in countries plagued by internecine conflict and violence is needed, as are political and practical actions to reduce the causes of climate change and build resilience against climate variability and extremes.

Achieving zero hunger by 2030 is possible but requires sustained action at individual, community, national and global levels. The target year is less than 12 years away, and so we do not really have time, but it is possible if we bear in mind that it is our joint actions that will determine the outcome.

Achieving zero hunger is in our hands and I call on everyone to play their part.


State should not be silent as body count from road accidents piles up

After listening to a family from Kakamega painfully narrate how they lost four of its members in the Kericho bus tragedy, among them the breadwinner, I wonder why the government has done nothing about this morbid trend.

The only son, who died together with his wife and their two children, had been called to make burial arrangements for his mother since his widower father has no source of income and depended on his son.

That is just one of the many painful experiences of Kenyans.

National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) statistics show that 2,345 lives had been lost on our roads by the second week of October, up from 2,162 over the same period last year.

Among the dead were people in their prime, whom the country has invested a lot to engage in nation-building. But their lives were cut short because public officers have absconded duty.

How would one explain that a 72-year-old man with an allegedly faulty bus drove non-stop, day and night, for 800 kilometres on roads teeming with traffic police officers? And this as the NTSA says long-distance public vehicle drivers have relievers.

Sadly, a week after a tragedy whose pain was felt thousands of miles way in New York, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sending condolences to the bereaved families, our own Transport minister, responsible for road safety, was still mum.

MPs are also yet to strongly condemn this senseless killing of Kenyans. Parliament should petition the President to declare road carnage a national disaster. But as western Kenya was thrown into mourning, local politicians were leading rallies in the region!

On August 5, 10 pupils of St Gabriel Primary School died in an accident in Kitui County yet it’s against the transport code for school buses to travel at night.

The President should remove some functions, such as road safety, from the ministry and place them under the Interior ministry, or appoint a ‘Michuki’.

SETH MWANGANI, Nairobi.

Travellers using public means should not keep quiet as they are being driven to an early grave.

Foreign tourists would not. They’d shout and demand a sober driver and make distress Save our Souls (SoS) calls.

JUSTIN N. NKARANGA, Mombasa.

The time for collective responsibility to end the road carnage is now. Let us rise up and say No! Otherwise, knee-jerk reactions and silence by officials will only aggravate the problem.

JOSEPH G. MUTHAMA, Kiambu.

Most accidents in Kenya are usually caused by overtaking. The government should handle it in the same way as speeding.

MEDINA HASSAN, Nairobi.

Last year’s ban on night travel by PSVs should be enforced. Again, having bus passengers sit on soda crates is very annoying.

EMILY MANGA, Mombasa.


With BBI being fought by civil society, Ruto’s 2022 run is clear

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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The Building Bridges to Unity Taskforce of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader-turned-ally Raila Odinga has come out of hibernation to announce a nationwide series of public hearings beginning next week.

In its statement, the team co-chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and academic Adams Oloo seemed keen to dispel the notion that it was a mere appendage of the improbable political rapprochement between the President and the former (yes, former) Opposition leader.

It stressed that its programmes will be inclusive, before launching into NGOese gobbledygook about “bilateral and multilateral interface working consultations and engagements.…”

PREMATURE DEMANDS

There will be many who will disagree that hearings staged by the BBI satisfy demands for an open and inclusive national dialogue. The taskforce will still have a hard time persuading critics that it is more than just a tool of the Uhuru-Raila ‘handshake’ deal.

Indeed, its work is not made easier by the fact that it has landed smack in the middle of internecine conflict within Jubilee revolving around the increasingly divisive presidential succession wars. The camp of Deputy President William Ruto is clearly suspicious that President Kenyatta has reached out to Mr Odinga as a device to sabotage their man’s State House prospects come 2022.

Mr Odinga has further muddied the waters with premature demands for a referendum even before the taskforce has collected views from the public and proposed areas of reform that will require constitutional amendments.

LITTLE CREDIBILITY

Entanglement in Jubilee power plays undermine and rob the BBI of any little credibility it might have had. This will explain why, even as it launched its timetable for public hearing, groups that felt betrayed and excluded had already signalled a launch of their own reform programme.

The Kenya Tuitakayo (The Kenya We Want) movement, launched on Thursday last week, a day before the Building Bridges announcement, is fronted by civil society activists previously seen to be firmly in Mr Odinga’s camp.

Kenya Human Rights Commission executive director George Kegoro and former Ethics and Governance permanent secretary John Githongo were among civil society luminaries seen as extensions of Mr Odinga’s political machinery in the run-up to last year’s elections.

BELATED REALISATION

They were also key in the #Resist campaign following on Mr Odinga’s boycott of the repeat presidential election.

But they were blindsided by Mr Odinga’s decision to abandon agitation and instead seal the ‘handshake’ deal with President Kenyatta.

If they had been left floundering in the dark, Kenya Tuitakayo serves as confirmation that activist elements of civil society have rejected the BBI and stepped out of the former Prime Minister’s shadow to push the reform cause from the outside.

It is a belated realisation that political players cannot be relied upon to lead the struggle for a just society beyond narrow and myopic self-interest.

UNASHAMED SYCOPHANTS

Whether this new push can replicate the Ufungamano spirit that drove the 1990s fight for a new constitutional order remains to be seen. Civil society of today pales in comparison to the selfless and focused activism of yore with many key leaders embedded in partisan politics.

The movement would also be hamstrung by lack of resources as key Western donors are content with the political status quo.

As for the religious groups, which were vital to the broad activist coalition that forced political players to the table in 1997, the less said the better. Most of them are now unashamed sycophants, at the service of the political leadership.

BETRAYAL ANGER

Can Kenya Tuitakayo find allies in the remnants of the political opposition?

Mr Odinga’s ‘defection’ left the National Super Alliance denuded of leadership. His Nasa co-principals — Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi — were outraged by his deal with the President but  are yet to show whether their anger was at his betrayal of opposition principles or their exclusion from the handshake.

Mr Musyoka has since clearly been angling to catch the President’s attention while Mr Wetang’ula seems to be gravitating towards Mr Ruto.

LEADERSHIP VACUUM

Mr Mudavadi, the most outspoken of the trio in calling the government to account, will soon be getting his audience with the President. The outcome of the meeting will reveal whether he is also ‘in the pocket’ or if he has it in him to fill the yawning vacuum in opposition leadership.

Nasa is on life support and will not be a factor in 2022 unless revived and refashioned to stand on its own without Mr Odinga’s towering leadership. Without the challenge of Nasa or a similar broad-based coalition, Mr Ruto on the Jubilee ticket facing a splintered opposition will have a clear run.


200 schools targeted in exam cheating probe

By OUMA WANZALA
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More than 200 schools are under investigations over plans to cheat in the national examinations, which begin next week, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said.

Also under probe is a teacher said to have collected Sh90,000 from students as payment for examination materials, she said, adding that the National Government will go for the assets of suspects involved in selling fake examination papers.

“We have identified several examination cartels that have been behind the sale of fake papers to parents and candidates.

“I will engage my colleagues at the Ministry of Interior, National Treasury, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine forensic means to deal with the proceeds accrued from this illegality. Culprits must be brought to book,” Ms Mohamed said at the Kenya School of Government during a brief on the examinations.

SURVEILLANCE

She was accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Education Principal Secretary Bellio Kipsang and other officials.

“So far, we have placed 30 examination centres under high dependency surveillance and 192 under amplified surveillance based on reported examination malpractice trends from 2015 to 2017,” she said.

“All examination containers will not be opened until the stipulated time, which is 5.30am. No centre should start distributing examination papers before the stipulated starting time.

“I will lead other senior government officials in the monitoring exercise to witness the opening of containers at the crack of dawn and to supervise examination distribution and management.”

She said the containers will have a double locking system and only sub-county directors of education and deputy county commissioners will have the keys.

“A total of 224 security officers will escort the examination materials from the Kenya National Examinations Council warehouse to the examination storage facilities in the counties. All question papers will be escorted by armed security officers everyday of the examination from collection to return of the answer scripts to the container and back to the council.”

VISITATION

Exam centre managers found to have opened examination packages before the appropriate time will be punished.

“Before the commencement of the examinations, we will put together a multisectoral team that will process reported cases of irregularities in real time and propose disciplinary action,” she said as she warned parents against visiting boarding schools until the end of term.

“In order to anticipate potential hurdles, particularly caused by the effects of changing climate, we will utilise daily weather advisories to help guide the day-to-day preparations to guarantee effective facilitation of the various players to administer the examinations efficiently,” she added.

Ms Mohamed will on tomorrow visit schools affected by tribal clashes in Molo, Njoro and Narok to ensure that the alternative systems are in place and fully operational.

A total of 1,060,759 candidates will sit for Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and 664,586 for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

Dr Matiang’i said more than 70,000 security officers will be deployed to guard the examinations.


Truck catches fire at Kenya Pipeline depot

By BRIAN OKINDA
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A truck transporting degraded material caught fire at Kenya Pipeline Company’s Embakasi Aviation Depot at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Monday evening.

KPC managing director Joe Sang said the fire began as the transfer of the downgraded product from Dump Tank 401 to the company’s Nairobi Terminal was ongoing.

“Both the truck, which was being used to offload the downgraded product, and the dump tank caught fire. The KPC team alongside Kenya Airports Authority, Nairobi County Fire Brigade, Kenya Defence Forces and the Kenya Police promptly acted, cordoning off the area as they put out the fire,” Mr Sang said.

He said the fire that began shortly after 4pm was quickly brought under control before it spread, and the only damage incurred was the truck.

“As part of the requisite security measures taken while containing the fire, business was temporarily stopped by suspending supplies to the JKIA.

“However, activities resumed at around 1737hrs when it was confirmed that all risks had been eliminated. Operations are now back to normal at both the airport and the KPC deport,” Mr Sang said.

He added KPC, alongside other security agencies such as the National Police Service, have since embarked on investigations to ascertain the cause of the fire.

KAA acting managing director Peter Gitari said no damage was incurred by the airport.

“It is only the lorry which was doing the transporting that was burnt. Operations in the airport were not affected by the fire,” Mr Gitari said.


NIC faces private trial in betting cash row

By GALGALLO FAYO
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Former Kisumu Town MP Kennedy Nyagudi has issued notice to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of his intention to privately prosecute NIC Bank over the lender’s refusal to reveal details of a gambling firm accused of embezzling millions in aid funds.

Mr Nyagudi says the bank has defied a court order granted to the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit to offer account details of Amaya Gaming Group, where the former lawmaker has a 15 per cent stake.

The politician has sued NIC Bank and gaming firm’s officials, David Baazov, Daniel Sebag and Benjamin Ahdoot, accusing the lender of helping the Canadians to open accounts that were used to siphon Sh73 million meant for aid and his share of Sh600 million collected by the lottery.

He wants to privately prosecute NIC Bank for defying the court order on account documents, saying other agencies have failed to take action on the lender.

The documents include a copy obtained by NIC showing the local directors of Amaya, copies of photos and IDs of the directors, bank account statements from 2010 and 2018, minutes and resolutions of Amaya on the bank account signatories and authority from the company to appoint the lender as their banker.

“I kindly request that you grant me the approval to commence private prosecution in order to hold NIC Bank into account,” says Mr Nyagudi via a letter to the DPP, Noordin M. Haji.

“This notice is as a result of persistent and deliberate refusal by the NIC Bank to produce documents as requested for five years and as ordered by the court three months ago.”

One can push for private prosecution if they show failure by agencies responsible for prosecution.

Mr Nyagudi in court documents claims that Mr Baazov, Mr Sebag and Mr Ahdoot secretly opened bank accounts at NIC, which were used to channel money earned from Amaya’s operations out of the country and away from the charity of Lion’s Heart—which was to receive 25 per cent of the lottery earnings.

The former MP holds that only he and Mr Baazov are listed as directors of Amaya Gaming Group Kenya, hence only the two of them had authority to open bank accounts.

He adds that the NIC opened Amaya bank accounts using fraudulent documents despite knowing that the other individuals granted access to the accounts did not have the authority.

Mr Baazov is fighting charges of insider trading in Canada.

NIC Bank is opposed to the banking fraud pursuing investigations over the Amaya bank accounts.