Public Property Ethics And Devolution As Governance Strategy To Economic Sustainability In Kenya

Kenya adopted devolved governance through the constitutional dispensation that resulted from the referendum in 2010.This was not solely a political exercise but a wholesome effort by the people of Kenya to achieve national development in the social, economic, political and legal sense. Five years down the line, development in any sense is not observed. Poor people are still socially excluded. More sadly, it is justified that corruption by the politically powerfulis the cause of all these.

The devolved public resources are looted by the leaders of devolved governments. The publics and citizens in Kenya are not ready to condemn these corrupt leaders, these is out of the sense that stealing public property is not immoral. The corrupt leaders are immensely voted to the public offices out of the euphoria that goes with community and ethnicheroism. This paper therefore has ethnographically and qualitatively examined the extant culture, public psychology and community attitudes towards respect for public property in Kenya with its implications on the economic sustainability and development.

Key words; public property, devolution, governance, sustainability

For those of you that have ever stayed in Africa, either in Kenya, Nigeria or South Africa or any other part of sub-Saharan Africa you must be already aware of the brutal way in which a thief on the street is beaten to death through mob justice. In most cases the thief is usually a street child that is hungry or a poor and depraved person stealing a cell-phone, or pick-pocketing small and cheap items to go and sell on the underground market for food. Kenya is deeply buried in this culture of mob justice. It has even exported to the English speaking world the term tyrenecklace, which is a neologism for putting an old tyre, sprinkled with petrol, around the neck of a suspected thief then burns him or her to death. This is expression of nothing else but respect for private property as sacred right of the individuals in Kenya and its level of capitalism. It is public testimony that private property is a fetish to the people of Kenya.

You will again be stunned to the pithy of your nerves to learn that these people beat to death a street thief for stealing her roasted cop of maize are the same people that will break to uncontrollable song and dance on the sight of the political leader approaching in a sleazy car imported from Japan. Not that the politician is a beacon of public morality, but he has only enriched himself by looting the public treasury, grapped and sold public land, misappropriated the public funds, looted the drugs from the public hospital and left the hospital dry of any drug or grapped and sold land of the community primary school just but to mention few examples.

Here, you must observe the logic of denotation or even connotation. Why is one praised and worshiped when he or she becomes rich by stealing or looting the public property by the people of Kenya? And why are the people of Kenya again very ready to hold as sacred in a fetish status this public property that is now stolen and wrongly or illegally existing as the private property in the hands of the thievish political leader? The answers may range from culture to ideology. But before we fix the answers to these questions let us first define some basic concepts.

Definition of Basic Concepts
Public property will be taken to mean the community or public property as defined by the Kenya Constitution 2010.This is the operational definition for the purpose of this paper. It includes properties held by the government on behalf of the citizens of Kenya. The government holding the property can be central government or devolved government. Public property can be a chattel or movable property, immovable property, money in form cash like the ones devolved to each of the fort seven Counties in Kenya. Natural resources and mineral deposits, rivers, oceans, lakes and forest can be held as public property by the government on behalf of the people or the community.

Devolution in this paper means the forty seven County governments in Kenya. They were created by the constitution in 2010.It was an effort to bring government services closer to people. Devolved governments are headed by governor and supported by the members of county assembly representing different political wards. Powers of the devolved government are checked by the court of law.However, devolved governments are also endowed with delegated legislations to make the laws through their county assemblies.

Governance is motley of administrative duties. It can be political or corporate governance. In this paper governance implies both political and corporate governance, which shall also be described as public sector governance .Administration of political and public policy to achieve social inclusion for balanced development is the duty of governance at central government level and devolved government levels. In contrast to the above duties, the devolved governments in Kenya are most exclusive political institutions. They are instead driven neurotically by the ideology of the tribe. A closer examination will reveal that they are the hotbeds of political and economic as well as social corruption. They are the chief impediment to the achievement of economic sustainability through profitable use of social capital otherwise known as public property.

Economic sustainability desired in Kenya is different from other countries. Especially developed countries in Europe and North American states. It operationally denotes; good naturalenvironment, rule of law, fundamental rights to ownership of property, right to access and access of basic education, clean water, medical care, security and food. It also means social inclusion of women and children in economic projects, freedom from crude culture like circumcising of women and discrimination of gays as well as lesbians, business opportunity and rights to claim of constitutional privileges. Family values, religious freedom, freedom from environmental pollution in the senses of sound, air, water and soil.Infact these are the variables of economic sustenance that devolved governance in Kenya is supposed to achieve.Saly,there is glaring observation to contrary that the devolved governments are the key perpetrators of odious deviation from the pre-supposed economic sustainability. How? Through regular political and institutional injustice to the public property. Let us now look for the reasons why public property in Africa and Kenya in particular, is not as sacred and as fetishes to the people the way private property is.

Why Public Property under Devolved Governments is not held Sacred in Kenya

Both Karl mark and Adam smith pointed out that capitalism survived and will survive in Europe because of private property being held in respect by the community and the governments. AdamSmith in the Wealth of the Nations argued that private property rights are sacred among the European communities of his time. In the same intellectual stretch Karl Marx in Das Kapital called commodities as Fetishes; this can also be logically extended as private properties as fetishes in the industrial and bourgeoisie world of his time. A century later Lenin in his collected works (1919) extended the argument by posting that capitalism succeeds because of its respect for private property and hence socialism cannot succeed unless there is maximum respect for public properties in the socialist societies. By analogy therefore, poor economies with a mixed economy must have both; maximum respect for private property and terse respect for public or community property.

The above citations are clear indications that in the developed world, foundation of development was based on property consciousness both at public and private level is guided by ideology .Contrastingly, in Africa and particularly in Kenya, it is only private property that is respected, but the property held by the government on behalf of the community is not given respect, leave alone ethical treatment. Absence of right ideology is the first cause of this moral deviation required for economic development. Professionals in African countries are not guided by any scientific ideology in their discharge of public duties. They subscribe to capitalism blindly, without knowing that for the society to prosper under a capitalist mode of economy public servants have to be ethical, honest, competent, and socially obliged to the welfare of the entire society. Primitive accumulation of money and riches at the expense of the defenseless society is not an entrepreneurial virtue. It is only mere conspiracy to the wholes development efforts of the society. This is what the Africans in the political and industrial class are not aware of. Their appetite for personal and selfish gain has totally blinkered their vision towards an imperative call for respect to the public resources as a pre-condition for economic success.

An ethnographic examination will easily reveal that, even if Kenya has taken a course of market oriented path to economic development, Kenyan communities have not yet achieved to internalize market civilization. The communities still live under the ethnic umbrella in form of clans and tribes. The economic classes have not yet taken roots. These conditions make one to feel secure if he or she is related to the rich kin or relative. This is again the same psychological foundations that will make the community to perceive one as a hero if he or she loots the government to come and share with his or her ethnic community or family members. These thus, suffice us to argue that the crude culture redolent of pre-market civilizations is the virgin ground for disrespect to the public property in Kenya.

Examples of Mass Disrespect for Public Property in Kenya

Political misuse of public property in the post-colonial government of Kenya has had a history that cuts across all the political eras. In 2012 Kenya was ranked 139th out of 176 countries for misuse of public property, tied with Azerbaijan, Nepal, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Transparency International Kenya report (2012) estimated the average urban Kenyan pays six bribes per month. Most of these bribes are fairly small but large ones are also. Bribes are also asevere case of corrupt misuse of public office or pubic resource by the public officer. The public procurement sector in Kenya is the most likely organ to perpetrate misuse of public resources.

Between 1986 and 1991 there was a case for the misuse of public property in theprocess of construction of the Turkwel Hydroelectric Power Station was riddled with claims heavy weight corruption. The hydro-electric dam was eventually built at three times the estimated cost, twice the allocated amount and producing energy significantly below the expected capacity.

In some five years ago, a Sh360 million helicopter servicing contract in South Africa was executed. Military officers had honestly argued that the contract was too extravagant and servicing the helicopters could be doneat cheaper fees locally. Kenya Air Force went ahead to spend Sh108 million as a down payment for servicing the Puma helicopters, whose tail number is logged as 418 at Denel Aviation, a South African firm. This was only a stretch to loot the state.

Transparency International Kenya report in 2005 showed the plans to buy a sophisticated £20 million passport equipment system from France, as government wanted to replace its passport printing system, created conditions for misuse of public property. The transaction was originally quoted at 6 million euros from François Charles Oberthur of Paris, but was awarded to a British firm, the Anglo-Leasing and Finance Company Limited, at 30 million euros, who would have sub-contracted the same French firm to do the work.the motivation was corruption not service to the society.

In November 2006, British Foreign Office minister Kim Howells warned, that misuse of public property in Kenya is increasing the UK's exposure to drug trafficking and terrorism. Howells decried the situation by talking to BBC that, ‘People can be bought, right from the person who works at the docks in Mombasa up to the government .This weakness has been recognized by drug-traffickers and probably by terrorists too.’

On 31 August 2007, The Guardian newspaper featured on its front page a story about more than GBP 1 billion transferred out of Kenya by the family and associates of former Kenyan leader Daniel arapMoi.

In June 2008, the author of this paper witnessed the Grand Regency Scandal, wherein the Central Bank of Kenya is alleged to have secretly sold a luxury hotel in Nairobi to an unidentified group of Libyan investors for more than 4 billion Kenyan Shillings (approx US $60 million) below the appraised market value. Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, also a tribesman to the president then, negotiated the sale, and was censured in a near-unanimous motion by the Kenyan Parliament, though he vehemently denies the charges. This follows on the heels of the Safaricom IPO, overseen by Kimunya, which has been alternatively praised and questioned for possible misuse of public property in the execution of the sale. Safaricom is the largest mobile phone service provider in Kenya, having operated with a near-government monopoly for many years. The government of Kenya sold its 50% stake in Safaricom in the IPO.

According to Wikipedia (2015)Transparency International Kenya report in October 2010, showed that the Department of Defence uncovered a bribery scandal involving senior Kenya Defence Force Officers in the corrupt Sh1.6 billion purchase of armored personnel carriers from South African company OTT Technologies (Pty) Ltd. Minister of Defence Yusuf Haji retired several high-ranking officers in January 2011 accused of taking bribes by OTT Technologies (Pty) Ltd, and the matter was referred for further investigation to Parliament. The September 2012 Report on Military Modernization Programmes by the Departmental Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations found that the irregular procurement of the PUMA M26 armored carriers had violated multiple sections of the Public Procurement Act 2005, that OTT Technologies (Pty) Ltd's business partners in Kenya had been identified by the US Government as being involved in international crime and drugs smuggling, and recommended that OTT Technologies (Pty) Ltd be barred from doing any business with the Government of Kenya in the future. In 2014, the same company was accused by the government of Mozambique of irregular tax and export control activities in the transport of similar armored carriers through Mozambique for onward trafficking into Africa.

Since inception of the Jubilee leadership in 2013, the media inKenya (Royal Media Services, The East African Standard and the DailyNation) has shown very many cases of the public officers looting the state property. In 2015 alone more than Kenya shillings 15 billion were loosed by the government through corruption. The minister of devolution Anne Waiguru misappropriated, Kenya shillings 9 billion on the faked National youth service project. The governor of Bungoma County bought a hundred wheelbarrows for the County government, one wheelbarrow at cost of Kenya shillings 1.5 million compared to the then prevailing market rate of Kenya shillings 2500.Another funny and foolish act of corruption was done by the Governor of Kirinyaga County who claimed that he had opened a face-book account for the county by paying Kenya shilling 12 million as fees for the service. What I mean is simply corruption and mad disrespect for public property.

Conclusive Remarks on the Public Property Ethics and Development in Kenya

By way of conclusion I want to go by the argument of other previous researches which have shown that that a society with better redistribution of resources enjoys more frequent and longer periods of economic growth and sustainable development. Corruption as form of injustice to public property is thus futile to any effective redistribution scheme a government is undertaking. Corruption frustrates people and leave them disproving of their institutions. a society with corruption cannot possibly enjoy sustainable economic growth and development as evidently seen in African countries. Corruption therefore the world’s greatest challenge. It is a hindrance to sustainable development. It harshly affects the poor communities.

Transparency International Kenya report (2006)
Kenya Constitution (2010)
The east African standard (August, 2015)
Wikipedia (2015)

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Articles by Alexander Opicho