Imagine all the public servants doing their duty... It’s easy if you try (kidding!)

Friday July 6 2018

Noordin Mohamed Haji, Kenya's Director of Public Prosecutions.

Noordin Mohamed Haji, Kenya's Director of Public Prosecutions, has, in the few months he has been in office, done more than his predecessor did in five years. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG 

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Noordin Haji, the new Director of Public Prosecutions, is demonstrating the world of difference it can make when state officials interpret their mandate widely and, just as important, apply themselves with diligence to the fulfilment of that mandate.

As is usually the case, state officials interpret their mandates narrowly and only go through the motions of carrying out their duties.

This, of course, is deliberate. It opens up loopholes for fraud where there should have been none. That is why, even when we have an array of laws, procedures and systems, there are always loopholes that allow grand theft of public funds.

In terms of the number of low and high officials hauled before the courts, and the willingness to hold officials accountable for acts of negligence that have imperilled the health and lives of citizens, Mr Haji, in the few months he has been in office, has done more than the previous office holder in five years.

A public officer working to the highest possible standards, one whose sense of personal achievement is determined, not by the status of the office he holds, but by the transformation he brings about, has a far-reaching impact.

First, his work ethic and values rub off on those working under him. Second, his example, if he is not undermined by the top political leadership of the country, begins to expose the mediocrity of heads of other departments.

Therefore, conscientious actions of a ranking individual can precipitate a positive cultural change in individuals and departments. As a matter of fact, when such an individual takes office, everyone feels and appreciates the impact of his diligence.

When Fred Matiang'i took over the moribund Education Department, Kenya took a giant step forward in terms of education management and output.

When the late Michuki was put in charge of the transport department, everyone benefited from the changes he brought about.

In short, citizens of all tribes benefit from the diligence and drive of individuals, just as we all suffer from the negligence or thieving of individuals, no matter their ethnicity.

In a poem titled If, the late Kenyan poet Gichora Mwangi speculates about the possibilities of a more beautiful, happy and humane world:
If he could have his way the artist might change the hues of the sky and make it blue at night.
If she could have her way the songstress might change the tune of the sad song and make fear obsolete.

In similar vein, we can speculate about the tantalising possibilities if all public officials performed their duties diligently, motivated by the desire to change their departments and their country.

What if the president set high standards of performance for himself and demanded the same of those who work for him?

What if he not only set goals but also accepted no excuses for their non-achievement? What if he worked as hard as he did during his re-election campaign?

What if the deputy president stopped campaigning to become president in 2022 and dedicated his every effort to the achievement of national goals?

What if he asked his supporters, some of whom hold key public offices, to stop expending all their energy politicking at funerals, and instead use every ounce of their energy towards fulfilment of the duties for which they are overpaid?

What if governors stopped buying wheelbarrows to the tune of millions and instead put every shilling towards bettering the lives of the people?

What if MPs, senators and Women Reps kept away from so-called homecoming parties at which latter day Narcissuses come to admire and worship themselves?

What if Jubilee and Nasa politicians ceased mindless sycophancy and instead spoke their conscience (well, for those who have any!)?

What if MCAs stopped fighting with chairs, travelling abroad to “benchmark,” and obsessing over car grants, and instead did the work they were elected to do?

What if all politicians were willing to lose both life and livelihood in defence of a principle like JM Kariuki, Martin Shikuku or George Anyona?

What if the Christian clergy stopped laying hands on politicians and instead took up the people’s cause like Alexander Muge, Timothy Njoya or Henry Okullu?

What if we all stopped thinking that our religion, tribe or gender was superior to the other, and made alliances on the basis of character?

What if we refused to be mobilised on the basis of tribe, but instead formed alliances on the basis of “community of interests” as our Constitution proposes?

Tee Ngugi is a political and cultural commentator based in Nairobi. E-mail: [email protected]