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EDITORIAL: Only merit should count

by kenya-tribune

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The government’s rather cavalier handling of appointments to parastatals, other public organisations and commissions is a mockery of its oft-repeated commitment to ensuring merit and cutting wastefulness.

Sadly, despite frequent public outcry, these positions are still being used to reward sycophants, political cronies, friends, relatives or other busybodies.

This is a shame as these organisations are expected to play specialist roles in the various sectors and should, therefore, be populated only by people who can add value to the jobs.

But what we are increasingly seeing are appointments whose criteria are not clear. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s latest slate of appointments does not inspire confidence at all. He has, as has often happened in the past, filled his list of appointments with politicians who lost in last year’s General Election.

It is as if some individuals must always be catered for by the taxpayer whether we like it or not. There are definitely many other Kenyans who are more qualified than these people who have already had a chance to serve the country before, but will never be given a chance.

Even where the President has reached out for some fresh blood, it is quite clear that the decision was influenced not by their ability to add value to those positions, but by extraneous considerations. There is absolutely no reason why public appointments should be used to placate certain interests.

Indeed, at a time when the government is cash-strapped, it is callous to pile on new burden.

There has been past talk about parastatal reform, with a committee picked to evaluate and rationalise these organisations, through which the haemorrhaging of public funds continues.

In some sectors, including education, there are just too many of these organisations, which just end up duplicating roles.

The most logical thing is to merge some of these and disband others. The journey to a lean and efficient government that delivers the goods must begin with shedding of some of these organisations that are only notorious for mismanagement and embezzlement of public resources.

We must retain only parastatals that have a valuable role to play, and most importantly, give clear guidelines on the recruitment of directors and staff.

These positions must be advertised and competitively filled to give the very best an opportunity to compete for those slots.

The public sector must cease to be a cash cow for a few and a source of employment for the well-connected and be an avenue to identify, harness and reward talent that yields dividends.

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