12 February 2013

Kenya: Nairobi Can Be Made a World-Class City


In the last few decades, good governance has become an important catchphrase for politicians, civil society groups and practitioners of modern management.

Governance is central to the positive long-term development and survival of any organisation, whether public or private. Without good governance, an organisation may prosper for sometime, but it will almost certainly meet an untimely end.

Whether it is in the management of multi-billion corporations or the running of a county government, there are certain irrefutable home-truths. Key among them is good governance. Good governance is the foundation on which successful enterprises are built.

It is the ethos that forms the basic DNA of well-run corporations. This is something that has been lacking in the management of public affairs, especially in the capital city of Nairobi.

But thanks to the new constitution and a devolved government, Kenyans now have a chance to demand and get the best of private sector culture in the management of the affairs of Nairobi.

A good starting point in this direction will be to study the 1993 Nairobi City Convention report christened "The Nairobi We Want".

The convention brought together public and private sectorplayers to give their reasoned views on how they wanted Nairobi to be governed.

The study was spearheaded by the then mayor of Nairobi, the late Steve 'Magic' Mwangi. A number of governance issues were identified as the biggest impediments to getting "The Nairobi We Want."

Nairobi has an abundance of human capital, natural resources, fianancial resources in billions of shillings that should be collected in taxes and revenue.

However, mismanagement, corruption and sheer waste have reduced Nairobi into a beggar that it should never have become.

Properly managed, Nairobi has all the resources it needs to finance its operations, recurrent expenditures, and the development expenditutre to make itthe world-class city it deserves to be.

It needs an administration that practices financial prudence, eschews corruption and wholeheartedly embraces transparency, fairness and equity while at the same time providing opportunities for all.

That is the Nairobi that was envisaged in "The Nairobi We Want" 20 years ago. It is the Nairobi that voters should demand from those they elect to govern the affairs of this central county.

But this is not the first time Nairobi is going autonomous. Students of history will recall that Nairobi and Mombasa once ran as autonomous entities, managed to deliver acceptable levels of services to residents until the Moi government stepped in and disrupted the system.

From then on, things have never been the same again. It has all been downhill business, with Nairobi often being unable to provide even the most basic of services to rate and tax payers.

Unnecessary bureaucracy has bogged down the decision-making process in the city council and there is hardly any system in place for participatory consultations with stakeholders.

Insufficient consultative participation in the management of Nairobi's affairs limits the effectiveness of governance in the city and negatively affects the delivery of services besides creating room for corruption, mismanagement and poor distribution of resources.

However, the recent growth of resident groups such as the Nairobi Central Business District Association, Karen-Langata Neighbourhood Association and Runda Residents Association among others is a welcome development that provides a good avenue for checks and balances in the management of county affairs.

So what are the pillars of good governance?

1. Rule of law: it is imperative to have an administration that operates within the confines of the law and provides civic education to ensure that all residents are aware of what the law says. That way, there will be no rogue agents exploiting the ignorance of law (and by-laws) as is currently the case.

2. Efficient and effective management of resources: The Nairobi county government will be entrusted with many resources; both cash and non-cash to manage on behalf of its residents. An efficient and effective management of such resources will eliminate wastage and guarantee good services for all.

3. Transparency and accountable management: Good governance cannot exist in a place where there is no transparency and accountability.

Nairobi needs an administration that will ensure that all decisions are made in a process where residents are fully aware of the circumstances leading to the decision.

4. Consensus oriented management style: when all the stakeholders have been given a chance to give their input on critical issues before a decision is arrived at, it eliminates resistance and ensures support for policies at all levels.

5. Responsive, equitable and inclusive: A good administration has to be responsive to views of those whose resources it has been honoured to manage.

A responsive management is also one that adheres to principles of equity and inclusiveness. This is the kind of administration Nairobi county needs and that is the kind of an administration I will spearhead if elected governor.

The writer is an aspiring governor for Nairobi

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