Monday, May 18, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
May 15, 2009

Now that there is calm after the tempest, let me venture into the Treasury debate that has occupied the minds of many Kenyans in the past three weeks.
For starters, I must admit that the 10th parliament is developing a life and character of its own. There are a number of MPs that are as unpredictable as the desert rains. You can never know when they are about to strike or who they will rally behind at crucial moments in that august house.

In a short period of just two months, this parliament has trashed no less than three committee reports of its own, leaving fellow MPs that chaired those committees with eggs on their faces. The committee with the highest casualty has been of Finance, which has had no luck with the House. After trying to convict Amos Kimunya on the Grand Regency saga, it found it necessary to be cautious with Uhuru’s 10Billion Supplementary Budget errors lest it follows in the footsteps of PAC’s maize saga with William Ruto.

Now, with Ruto, Murungi and Uhuru cleared of wrong doing in their respective ministries; it was obviously an uphill task for the Committee on Agriculture to make claims against Raila Odinga stick; claims that the committee desperately tried to link with the Prime Minister’s family.

Now that Parliament has exhonerated all the big guns and cleared them of all wrong doings, how do MPs such as Gitobu Imanyara, Kiema Kilonzo, Johnstone Muthama and Boni Khalwale move on? I am asking this question because these are the MPs that are most vocal when it comes to unearthing underhand dealings in the government.
As we grapple with the question, let me turn my attention to the KSH 10 Billion “error” that gave Uhuru Kenyatta sleepless nights for at least two weeks at a time when other media had predicted his imminent exit from the cabinet.

My experience as a corporate manager taught me never to trust my juniors with reports and figures, especially if I had to present the same to my superiors. I would not trust them not because they were untrustworthy but rather because I would bear the pain if the figures and storylines were found to be inaccurate. For this reason, I attended a crush programme on Financial Management for Senior Management at the American Management Institute in Washington DC. I needed to be competent in dealing with accountants and finance managers since by tradition they are fond of mesmerizing non financial managers with figures. And where necessary they can cook up figures to make books look good.

I have this belief that one does not need to be very intelligent or schooled in economics and accounting systems to be a good minister for finance even though such training can add a lot of value to the position. However, an inherently lazy and casual professor of economics would still get things wrong when it comes to numbers. I believe that diligence, common sense and sense of duty can make a non-economist a better finance minister than the few economists I have seen in Kenya holding that portfolio.

Had Uhuru done the most sensible thing- read the whole Supplementary Budget with a toothcomb, used his calculator to crunch the numbers and find out if the three columns agreed, he would have done a better job of the original report.

Further more, he would have detected these “computer errors” in time to enable him take the bloody document back to the technocrats who prepared it. He would have in time detected that his “enemies” at the Treasury were at it again trying to bring him down the way they had done with Amos Kimunya, David Mwiraria and George Saitoti before him. Oh yes, there are conniving hawk-eyed whistle blowers larking at every dark alley in the Treasury Building out to get the big fish from time to time. If you doubt me, ask Governor Kotut and Andrew Mullei, PS Mbindyo and Wilfred Koinange who have gone to hell and back just for doing a good day’s job at the Treasury.

The kind of recklessness that embarrassed Uhuru in Parliament is the type that past administrations would never have condoned. There would be no way the five permanent secretaries and their deputies would still be in office if this regime was either Kenyatta’s in his heydays. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.
Now mediocrity, carelessness and sheer ineptitude are the order of the day throughout the entire system from the highest office in the land down to the watchman.