Sunday, May 23, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

May 23, 2010

Nairobi Kenya

There is a worrying trend in Kenya where political activists and briefcase carriers of individual politicians are being smuggled into the public service under the guise of personal assistants, private secretaries, advisors or spokesmen.

The most abused area is that of the government Information Department where although there is an established structure led by the Director of Information and Public Communications in the Ministry of Information and Communications serving the entire government, it is clearly emerging that senior politicians who think they are as important as the President clandestinely, without due regard to the Public Service Commission recruitment procedures, and with the intrigues of their permanent secretaries; are busy smuggling into the Public Service and assigning such characters government titles they have no authority to bestow on anybody.

To put the record straight; there are only three lawfully established senior communications positions in the current GoK establishment. These are the Head of Presidential Press Service that serves the Office of the President and State House, the Government Spokesman that operates from the Office of the President and the Director of Information and Public Communication that not only serves the entire government structure but also oversees the deployment and supervision of Information Officers, Public Relations Officers and Kenya News Agencies staff in all ministries and government departments in all corners of the Republic.

In this structure, the Head of Presidential Press Service exclusively manages all communication from State House on behalf of the President. He is the link between the President and the Public. On the other hand, the Government Spokesman is in theory the office that should explain government policies to the public or government position on emerging political, economic and social issues when they occur. Whether this mandate has been achieved or not is not for this article but the fact remains that this is the core function of the Office of the Government Spokesman.

The Director of Information and Public Communication is the sole advisor to every arm of the government on information and communication matters. This position is recruited on merit through the Public Service Commission and enjoys binding contracts from time to time. Unlike the Presidential Press Head or the Government Spokesman, this is not a political appointment. It serves the State without any regard to partisan politics, political inclination or individual politician no matter how highly such individuals may be placed.

Having explained these positions, it therefore came as a shock to the public when recently an article purported to have been written by the Director of Public Communication and Head of VPPS was circulated in all the newsrooms. What was even more worrying was the fact that this article was plagiarized by political operators masquerading as sympathizers of the Vice President regarding the Uhuru Park Yes rally without even putting the Vice President in the picture. Indeed the Vice President was piqued when a section of the crown heckled him and he has made every Tom, Dick and Harry know his feelings. However, there a designated Deputy Director of Information & Public Communication in his office that should have been assigned the responsibility to communicate the Vice President’s displeasure.

That notwithstanding, this article was smuggled into newsrooms without either the knowledge or authority of a duly appointed Deputy Director of Information in charge of the Vice President’s office.

This trend of smuggling in political activists masquerading as media consultants and giving them official designations unprocedurally, positions that are already occupied amounts to fraudulent behavior that calls for investigation by none other than the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission

It is one thing for a politician to privately hire his supporters, cronies and youth wingers to any position he may wish to assign them but no politician, no matter how highly placed should be allowed to abuse the law and the due process to hire cronies and ask the public to bear the burden when there are already properly employed staff doing the same jobs. When these irregularities appear in the local media, the impression they create is that there are parallel governments within the Coalition government with separate agenda when in fact there are none.

As of now, Kenyans have only one President, one Prime Minister and one Vice President and 41 ministers that form the Executive arm of the government. They all should serve one common purpose; to deliver services to all Kenyans irrespective of their political beliefs.

If this trend is not nipped in the bud, it will dangerously blur the line between the official GoK Public Communications personnel and personal political strategists however elevated the individuals concerned may be. The greatest danger this trend poses is the possibility of giving GoK titles to operatives whose allegiances are not to the State or the Government of the day but to individual politicians with ambitions for higher offices in the future.

More fundamentally, if this recklessness is allowed to flourish within the political establishment, it will most certainly demoralize the staff at the office of the Director of Information and Public Communications and his entire team of industrious career professionals when they see overnight appointments to non- existent vacancies.

More importantly; in the present era of endless fault-finding climate where diplomatic and donor community busy bodies are forever on the lookout for compromise and overlap on every move the government may make, the practice of hijacking official GoK designations to serve the interests of foreign activists and their local accomplices cannot be ruled out. If that occurs, chances of using the same mouthpieces to paint the Civil Service and selected high ranking politicians in bad light cannot be ruled out. The net result is a more damaged image of Kenya and a dysfunctional government.

In civilized societies where politics is less cutthroat and less acrimonious, polished and successful political spin doctors usually roll out their strategies discreetly without showing their hands or faces. They are usually background operatives that normally go by the tag think tanks or advisors. They are not supposed to fight the battles of their paymasters in the open but rather supply him with crucial information to do battle on the political arena.

The reason this dangerous development must be stopped forthwith is our fear that one day we may wake to find a general manager of a watchman company being appointed a Police Commissioner of Kenya Police or Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces! What if we wake up one day to find a River Road Forex Bureau retail owner being named the Governor of Central Bank?

Our politicians must avoid these silly but potentially dangerous intrigues in their quest for media presence and higher political office. We are already paying so much to sustain a bloated cabinet without having to be forced to foot the bills of their hirelings as well!