Sunday, October 18, 2015

Leverage ICT to Tame Petty Corruption in our Counties and Government Agencies

To tame petty, tender-related corruption in Kenya, the Public Procurement Oversight Authority should take the route of information technology to evaluate applications before tenders are inflated.

The Principles:

      a) Goods supplied to Government and other Public Agencies in Kenya will be sourced locally, supplied by qualified Kenyans, and 30% by Women, the Youth and the Disabled;
      b) Any Kenyan has the right to establish and conduct business anywhere in the Republic, and
      c) Public Agencies must procure high quality goods and services at the best possible value.

Information Technology will avail potential benefits, such as that it:

       1) Removes bias, by ensuring every application is evaluated, without arbitrary hiding of applications.
       2) Will allow comparison of Primary Producer Prices, e.g. Farm or Factory prices.
       3) Ensures suppliers will compete on Function, Price, Quality, and Speed of Delivery.
       4) Removes multiple brokers from the equation – why buy from a broker when the producer is bidding?
       5) Permits the purchaser to set maximum price differentials and expected margins.
       6) Will have basis that any price quoted includes taxes and margins for the procurer.
       7) Can be evaluated by the Public Procurement Oversight Authority.

Therefore, set up a nationwide system of integrated procurement software that allows for evaluation and aggregation of all Supplies Tenders by Public Agencies.

Suppose you want to supply office biros to a Public Agency:

      A) You must be a registered seller of biros. How else would you supply what you don’t sell?
a.       A general merchant, hawker, shopkeeper or kiosk-keeper;
b.      A bookshop,
c.       A wholesaler,
d.      An agent of a manufacturer, or
e.      A Manufacturer of this commodity.
      B) You must indicate your tax payment status, and the tax component of your bid, which will be withheld and paid to KRA by the procuring agency.
      C) You must quote at least three types of biro pens, and your capacity to supply them:
a.       Pen type 1, its attributes, and why it fits this tender;
b.      Pen type 2, its attributes, and why it fits this tender;
c.       Pen type 3, its attributes, and why it fits this tender;
d.      The manufacturer, wholesale and retail price of each pen type.
      D) You must indicate own quoted price for delivering this pen type to indicated place of use or storage, and why it is superior to the manufacturer, wholesale and retail price.
a.       Your quoted price must not exceed the Manufacturer price by more than 15%
b.      Your quoted price must include all relevant taxes payable to government.

The buying agency has a responsibility, when buying standard goods, to buy from the lowest priced 20%. For procuring non-standard goods and services, the tender must be open to international bidding.

Each supplier can only submit one application, but is allowed to amend it once, to remain competitive.

Each application will be filed for free, to encourage as many applications as possible.

Anyone resident in Kenya can submit an application.

Each application will be aggregated with the preceding supply tenders, and each attribute averaged, as a guide to any other applicant willing to participate. The system will display the leading bid code at all times.

They software system will suggest the top five leading bids for further evaluation.

All bids will be presented in Kenya Shillings.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Elections Held in December

It takes a newly-elected government at least four months to install itself comfortably into the nooks and crannies that characterize the corridors of power. Selecting nominees for the many offices and committees that usually need reconstituting - due to executive privilege, or resignations of holders with viewpoints opposed to the incoming administration. Vetting procedings, as well as general familiarity with new official environments, rearrangements and general euphoria that characterize accession to power, take time to settle.

In my opinion, the last four months of the year are just the right time for such elementary proceedings. Which is why elections should be held earlier; in August preferrably, so that by January of the following year, everything is set for a neat take-off. Voters allow themselves the chance to bond over the festive season, and easily overcome the tensions of a charged elections season. Schools and businesses can look forward to a complete new year devoid of distractions, when the festive season ends; and the new year has a psychological starting point from which to evaluate its progress.

When the country votes in December, just the opposite happens. Nobody really has a festive season, as the days are consumed by political tension and noise. These spill over into the new year, and literally waste away the first few months, as a new government strives to install itself, while meeting the challenges of a demanding public. In temporal terms, two calendar years are lost to politics. Should schools be opening, or should we await the Supreme Court's ruling on the presidential election? Should you, instead, be flying away to the holiday you could not award yourself due to your civic commitments over December? It is unnecessary messiness. And it wastes the natural tendency of people to work harder towards the end of the year.

Every time you mix two high-tempo seasons, someone is bound to come out a loser - either emotionally or even economically. That hurts the nation, deeply.

Seeking Rationality, I Must Shift From DStv to GOtv.

In Kenya, the digital migration wars are roiling. As the ITU mandated deadline for migration from analogue television broadcasting technologies to the more efficient digital systems elapses, a momentous court battle is raging between the industry regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya, CA, and the three largest terrestrial broadcast networks in Kenya. Senior Counsel Paul Muite and a battery of awe-inspiring laywers are pitted against the regulaor in various courtrooms, from the High Court all the way to the Supreme Court.

Whereas I feel for the broadcasters in their battle against a hard-tackling regulator, I am not particularly perturbed by the possible outcomes. You see, I migrated from analogue to digital, at a household level, in May 2009. Five and a half years ago, as I write this. For those years, I have paid subscriptions to MultiChoice Kenya, for their lowest-priced satellite bouquet. That serves my need for news briefs, a bit of live sport and quite an array of dated culture shows - not being a real television buff.

However, with the recent transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting technology, their offerings on GOtv have shifted my allegiances. For a slightly lower fee, I have access to seven or more channels that were previously unavailable to me. CNN, MTV Base, Sony Entertainment, Sony Max, one or other of those Nigerian movie channels and an Events Channel that has recently been broadcasting the African Cup of Nations extravaganza in Equatorial Guinea. I might not receive the RAI channel, Bloomberg, NDTV or the debased CNBC Africa, but I am fine, thank you.

The decorder allows me to view quite a number of local free to air channels that are not available on the satellite platform. That is a huge value proposition for me. As a message to MultiChoice? Don't miss me too much on satellite, because I am fully grounded at home on DTB.

Now for an appeal: satellite broadcasting required a smartcard in the decorders as a buffer to signal misappropriation by clients. The new terrestrial technology, without smartcards, should be cheaper for all of us. Why, wouldn't MultiChoice consider winning the decorder wars in Kenya, by placing all the premium content channels on GOtv, so as to reach a bigger market, with lower costs both for themselves and the clients?

I would not mind a super dose of live sport and headline cinema, at a lower cost. After all, Kenyans are known to love buying things in small quantities, only more often. As a rational consumer of television, I hedge my bets with GOtv, and have given up on exclusive satellite feeds.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putin rubbishes 'American exceptionalism' and throttles Obama's war-cry

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in an op-ed in the New York Times, has chided the United States of America's proclivity to deploy "brute force" for accomplishing simple geo-strategic aims. President Putin was especially visceral when disagreeing with the numbing mantra beloved of all US politicians of "American exceptionalism', terming it as dangerous and vain.

Mr Putin was reacting to a speech to the nation by President Barrack Obama that sought to explain the need for a befitting response, following the gassing to death of over a thousand people in the suburbs of Damascus, on August 21, 2013. While both leaders agree that chemical weapons were deployed in nine neighbourhoods of the Syrian capital, they diametrically disagree on the culprits. While President Obama has accused the Syrian Government of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad for the atrocity, President Putin lays the blame at the door of Syrian rebels and regional war-mongers who want Assad's military capabilities eroded, in order to swing the two year long civil war in their favour.

Both leaders have good points. But as things stand, Putin has lifted the moral standard, and Obama must defer and re-strategize, especially after the hectoring and belligerence expressed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry in voluble orations in the last fortnight.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Affirmative Action: Let Kenyans Elect Women Running-mates in Marginal Areas

Fellow Kenyans, it is time to amend our Constitution. It is time for our own First Amendment: the Affirmative Action Amendment. Urgently required of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 is an amendment that will make its affirmative action agenda to be realized fast, less fractiously and more reasonably. Our people’s sovereign aim of increasing the participation of women in politics, and of diminishing the patriarchal skew of our national conversation has been steeped in endless incompetence and inconsistency.

Whereas our people have the free will to participate in politics and elect whomever they prefer in regular elections free from undue influence and discrimination, the Constitution still demands of them to ensure that “no more than two thirds of all people elected into office are of the same gender.” That creates a real conundrum. Free choice does not sit very well with strictures and limitations.

The Constitution offers the first way out, though an inadequate one: by creating the positions of 47 Woman Member of the National Assembly, one for each of the Counties of Kenya. Yet, and consequent to this overt effort, the People have responded by directly voting in only 19 women – none of whom is a Senator or Governor - among the 337 parliamentary seats available at the ballot. The feeling in the wind is that “women have their own preferential seats.”  Communities thus responded by casting their lot with the men folk.

As a result, Parliament - as elected - has not met the one-third principle of the Constitution, and might necessitate the nomination of some 140 more women, to balance the stakes. This trial and error process of aggregation and “guesstimation” is too tawdry and untenable in the long term. In the choice between whom the people want and have rightly elected, and whom has to be included in order to balance the numbers, democracy suffers, and cronyism is bound to blossom.

Our political system has a pungent history of poor nominations; of people who simply pick the parliamentary nomination, enjoy the monthly cheque for their term, and yet represent nobody in particular. Aside from a few truly exceptional servants like the current Supreme Court Justice Susan Njoki Ndung’u, who indefatigably legislated for Women and Children, the majority of nominees have performed dismally. It would be disastrous and a pugnacious twisting of wisdom to reward a system that has so brazenly misused twelve slots, with one hundred and forty more.

It is, therefore, time to amend our Constitution to settle this matter. The main premises for arguments on representation of the people centre on population size and land area. Regions with huge populations feel under-represented and marginalized, as no single constituent has adequate access to their representatives. Also, very large area constituencies are difficult to mainstream, as any infrastructure project serves only a few people in a small place, marginalizing the rest of the sparsely-spread residents.

It follows, then, that marginalization exists both in small areas with high-density populations and much larger areas with low-density habitation. Both extremes deserve increased representation and developmental funding. Generally, it happens that women are the more marginalized gender both in high-density and low-density habitats.

I suggest a formula that elects alternate representatives; adjutant or lieutenant members of the national assembly for both sets of areas – call them running-mates.

We should have a senate of seventy: forty seven elected from each county, a woman running-mate senator from each of the eleven most populous counties, a woman running-mate senator from each of the eleven largest area counties, and the speaker. Neat number: 47 and 11 and 11, then 1; to give us 70. Right away, the Senate has 22 women representatives - who have real people relying on them for service and representation.

Also, we should have a parliament of three hundred and sixty-one – two hundred and forty main candidates elected in each constituency; and, one hundred twenty alternative women members, sixty elected as party running-mates from each of the top 60 largest area constituencies, and a further sixty women as party running-mates from the 60 most densely-populated constituencies; and the speaker. Here, we will have 361 as 240 and 60 and 60 then 1.

A similar formula can be used for nominations to the county assemblies, to limit the sizes of their memberships.

The immediate benefit of this is certainty in the size of the national assembly. Kenyans will go to the polls knowing which places will get a second representative, or not. Further, the actual choice of a running-mate in a county or constituency necessitates regional balancing: that east-west and north-south inclusivity that causes regional harmony. Those who nominate their sisters, cousins or kinsfolk as lieutenants will be felled at the ballot by voters who prefer more diverse tickets of the opposing parties.

Also, places like Tana River County, larger than Western Province combined with Nyanza, but with only one senator and three members of parliament will now have two senators and six other members in the national assembly. And we expect the same fate for Turkana, Garissa, Kajiado and other larger than average counties.

Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kiambu, Kakamega and Bungoma, the most populous counties of Kenya will have two senators each; one representing the urban marginalized and women in the senate. The constituencies within them, with hundred-thousands of residents will each get two members, serving their diverse interests in Parliament. As a consequence, Nairobi’s four million residents will have 34 MPs from its seventeen sub-counties, much more congruent to its political and economic importance.

More significantly, we start the election assured of 142 women members of the national assembly, some of who will be youth, disabled, technocrats, activists and experts in various fields. We, by that stroke, eliminate the unwieldy nonsense of electing County Woman Members of the National Assembly. Shall we save ourselves the comedy of results like Rachel Shebesh’s, who was elected with 650,000 votes in Nairobi, only for her to share a platform with members who got only 9000 votes, to win their constituency election?

By any positive count, 142 is better than 47. In effect, we will never have to nominate anyone, because, as it stands, 19 women were elected directly, which outcome, though measly, would have pushed our starting numbers to 161, well over the one-third legal thresh-hold in an assembly of 431 people.

Patriots, it is time to amend our Constitution to achieve common sense, accelerate inclusion and secure our common interest.