Challenges and Opportunities for Public Sector Reforms in Kenya

Challenges and Opportunities for Public Sector Reforms in Kenya

KIPPRA held a stakeholder workshop to deliberate on policy issues in relation to public-sector reforms in Kenya. The forum, which was held on 22nd May, 2018, is in line with KIPPRA’s mandate to build capacity for the government, private sector and other stakeholders, in terms of the public policy process.

The efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector in a country is essential for successful development. In the past, reform programmes have had piecemeal implementation that has often proved ineffective and unsustainable. Viewed as a process of change that occurs over a period, public sector reform aim to yield lasting improvements to the way government departments and agencies work internally; how they interact with each other, with their political leaders and with the citizens they intend to serve, to enhance the provision of public goods and services. Public sector reforms, as defined by The Economic Commission for Africa, are processes and practices, which are concerned with improving the capacity of institutions to make policy and deliver services in an efficient, effective and accountable manner.

Attempts to reform Kenya’s public sector began in 1965 but gained momentum in the early 1990s and continue to date. The initial reform agenda was geared towards addressing challenges within the public sector such as overstaffing, declining productivity, discrepancies in service levels, poor remuneration, low staff morale, indiscipline and unethical behaviour in the government institutions, with the aim of improving public sector performance and service delivery. These reforms have undergone four phases and spanned governance reforms, adoption of performance contracting and a rapid results initiative under the results based management programme, not to mention, e-government, service delivery charters, citizen service centre (Huduma Centre), as well as providing opportunities for the capacity building and training of civil servants among others.

Despite numerous reform initiatives, profound impact of these reforms is yet to be felt, as reform efforts in Kenya have primarily been undermined by underperformance and an inadequate citizen-centric focus within the public sector.

As put by KIPPRA Executive Director Dr Rose Ngugi during the workshop, there is an interest in pushing the agenda that is clearly spelt out in the Constitution, which lays emphasis on having a public service that is efficient, performance-oriented and citizen-focused. This means that the public-sector reform as a philosophy of holding supreme the interests of Kenyans; embracing values and strong spirit of professionalism needs to play a big role in improving the quality of public service delivery. Dr Ngugi acknowledged Kenya Vision 2030 as the long-term development agenda in which the government has identified an efficient public service as a key foundation in meeting the set development goals. She added that an efficient public sector is pivotal in enhancing national competitiveness; supporting strong economic growth; and ultimately, taking us where we want to be, which as an upper middle-income country. Dr Ngugi added that the citizenry wants to see a public officer who embraces a standard of professional ethics and the prudent use of resources so that sustainable development can be attained and the social and economic welfare of every Kenyan citizen improved. She added that the strategy going forward becomes critical in ensuring that public sector reforms have a home both at the national and county levels of government.

Dr Alfred Ongera of KIPPRA gave a further overview of public sector reforms in Kenya by sharing preliminary findings of a KIPPRA-led audit of public sector reforms in Kenya. He also highlighted the current impact of reforms and challenges towards realizing the objectives of Kenya’s public-sector reforms. The audit, according to Dr Ongera, identifies existing gaps and challenges in public sector reform, extracts emerging issues and identifies positive drivers of reforms in the public sector.

In his address, Dr Sylvester Obong’o from the Public Service Commission said in examining reform, one must look at the historical and constitutional context of application of those reforms. Dr Ogong’o pointed out the key reason Kenya has not succeeded in reforms is the fact that it often benchmarks on practices and not principles. He added that political contexts determine the level of reform.

Mr Mahat Osman Shalle from the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee (IGRTC), who represented Prof. Karega Mutahi, discussed the role of the IGRTC in public sector reforms in counties as well as the challenges and opportunities arising from their engagements.

Other keynote speakers were Mr Benson Okundi of Price Water House Coopers, who provided the human resource perspective of public sector reforms; Mr Stephen Obiro from the Policy, Research, Advocacy and Strategy Department of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), who highlighted employee experiences in public sector reforms and Reverend Dr Linda Ochola Adolwa, of Mavuno Church, who addressed public sector cultural values and civic engagement. Others were the County Secretary of Makueni County Government Mr Paul Wasanga, who discussed the role of devolution in reshaping public-sector reforms; Dr David Muthaka from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and Ms Anne Nalo from the Capital Markets Authority among others.

The workshop also included plenary discussions where participants gave comments and sought clarifications.

The deliberations and the resolutions of the workshop together with findings from the KIPPRA research will be disseminated in form of a report.


Nicodemus Muriuki and Jane Kenda




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