How Big is the Kenyan Government?

Every so often we all learn of a government agency that we didn’t know exist. Mostly, this happens on the event of a calamity be it the now annual mitigatable calamities such as droughts and floods. Other times it comes to fore that some corrupt deals have been happening at the said agencies. Calamities unlike corruption sometimes get declared national disasters followed by profound campaigns by aid agencies and occasionally the national government calling on the citizens to provide financial and other forms of aid. While this worked during the wildly successful #Kenyans4Kenya and #WeAreOne, Kenyans have since grown apathetic on the clear lack of execution of the elaborate mitigating plans developed by overpaid consultants by various government agencies.

What gives?

This could be a case of institutions abdicating their responsibilities but when the President tasked her lab with jump starting business growth IBM’s Charity Wayua says in her ted talk:

“ we didn’t find corruption in the classic sense: slimy gangsters lurking in the darkness, waiting to grease the palms of their friends. What we found was an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Our government was sick, because government employees felt helpless. They felt that they were not empowered to drive change. And when people feel stuck and helpless, they stop seeing their role in a bigger system. They start to think the work they do doesn’t matter in driving change. And when that happens, things slow down, fall through the cracks and inefficiencies flourish.”

This argument bodes well with several reports by government agencies of lack of capacity and sometimes under-staffing. Additionally, a number of organisations have mandates that intersect without a clear direction on the manner of handling any intersecting duties think Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Kenya Open Data Initiative. Furthermore, in my previous life as an employee of the government, I regularly met institutions that were not clear on the boundaries of their mandate unless it had something to do with a brand new funding scheme. Some of these institutions were established as a minions’ reward scheme by the ruling party and the president of the day, a practice that flourished in the 1980s as Kanu and President Moi went on a parastatal establishing spree to rob multiparty democracy movement of support. In all sincerity, some of the established bodies were very crucial to the economy but what this period created was a government that couldn’t clearly tell the existence and sometimes the functions of all its organs.

The Public Service Commission mandated with establishing and abolishing of offices in the public service provide no resource on the actual size of the government. Government websites: Kenya Gazette, my gov and the Kenya Open Data Initiative can only provide a list of 111 parastatals within the government. On the other hand IFMIS through which government ministries, departments and parastatals procure goods and services show 532 procurement entities, 268 of which are parastatals.

Granted there are certainly some misclassifications of departments as ministries but it is curious that there are over 200 parastatals within government some such as Coast Development Authority have their mandates taken over (i believe) by the equalization fund and devolution.

Furthermore, it can be argued that Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation and Kenya Industrial Estates have the same mandate. It is difficult to defend the need for Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board as Kengen produces sufficient electricity and has been slowly moving towards renewable energy even before the massive endorsement of solar energy by Kenya’s peers such as Morocco.

Some of the major revelation of this exercise was the presence of parastatals including:

Citizen and Foreign Nationals Management Service, Kenya Leather Development Council, , Clinical Officers Council, National Industrial Training Authority, State Corporations Appeal Tribunal, Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council, National Quality Control Lab, commodities fund, Kenya Sugar Research Foundation, Numerical Machining Complex.

National Drought Management Authority whose task is to establish mechanisms which ensure that drought does not result in emergencies and that the impacts of climate change are sufficiently mitigated. Say what?

Pest Control Products Board: est 1983 to regulate the importation, exportation, manufacture, distribution and use of products used for the control of pests and of the organic function of plants and animals and for connected purposes.

Conclusion and one last question

Evidently, county governments of Baringo, Bomet, Meru, Kajiado and Elgeyo Marakwet don’t seem to use the portal for their procurement needs. Similarly parastatals such as Kenya Radiation and Protection Board who have no presence on the portal which begs the question how many government parastatals exist?