Saturday, 24 October 2015

‘El Ninomics’ and The Legendary Embezzlers

What happened to the forecasted El Nino rains? Was it a hoax? Or is it on the way? I cannot tell because nature is sometimes unpredictable. The weatherman certainly has a question to answer no wonder a legislator from Narok County plans to sue the meteorological department for allegedly issuing false weather predictions and alerts. This sounds a bit queer.

My main concern however, is on the finances that have been set aside by the national government and the county governments to deal with the El Nino effects. The reports from the national government indicate that Kshs.15 billion is required for the disaster operations but only Kshs.5 billion is available courtesy of the Contingency Fund. This means that Kshs.10 billion is needed to cover up the deficit. Good move! You think so.

Well, disaster preparedness has been an Achilles’ heel for the past and present governments all because of weak disaster management strategies. Surprisingly, the National Disaster Operations Centre has been in existence since 1998 but majority of Kenyans hardly know if such an office exists. This simply means that we have been paying taxes to fund an office that is largely moribund and of course this is a clear sign of no transparency and accountability or this centre is highly incapacitated in terms of limited access to both human and financial resources. May be that is why we depend so much on the non-governmental agencies to handle cataclysmic situations.

Whether these dreaded rains occur or not, the mandarins are going to be a luckier lot. Let us decipher two scenarios, which are of course contingencies, that is if El Nino occurs and secondly if it doesn’t with respect to the allocated funds. If it happens, we expect a lot of destruction. But in the wake of its occurrence the people who are going to largely benefit are the seasoned corrupt government officials. I will not be surprised to see the honchos flying in choppers from one affected area to another in the name of ‘making assessments’ of the resulting damages while the people will be hurled in tents in some ‘safety’ camps somewhere. In the end, large sums of money will be used to fund activities by the government officials other than helping to meet the needs of the affected lot.

Secondly, if El Nino does not occur, then I am prepared in advance for another financial scandal. What will happen to the funds that have been set aside if these rains don’t occur? Certainly, the Treasury will emphasize greatly on how the funds have been taken back to the Contingency kitty. The backslappers will be very defensive on this and then we shall be up in arms against the Auditor General. You should however be aware that the Auditor General sometimes has to be politically correct lest he falls victim to the philosophical ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ rage and brigade. If you doubt this, then reflect on how the Auditor General was silenced by the National Treasury and some Jubilee flunkies after he questioned the whereabouts of Kshs.67 billion some few months ago. Have you ever heard him opening his mouth again?

Either way, the funds that have been set aside for El Nino is a new frontier and a mega opportunity for the chief priests of graft and the lords of corruption to exercise their might on who has a more roaring appetite for public funds. I am not a pessimist, but an expresser of the solemn reality and truth of the matter. What makes it an ideal situation for some to get rich quickly using wrong means are the weak mechanisms and poor structures that have been in place. This is evident because the governments we’ve had have always turned to the international relief agencies to handle emergencies despite the existence of the National Disaster Operations Centre.

As a country, we have experienced calamities in the past and how did the governments fair on? Below par. That is my rating which is a bit rational, logical and reasonable. We’ve had cases of famine but the Red Cross and other relief agencies were at the fore-front to give assistance. I particularly reminisce the Kenyans For Kenya campaign that was run co-jointly between the Red Cross and Safaricom. The IDPs’ situation has been handled very poorly. Is it not sociopathic to witness government officials squander money that is meant to resettle the IDPs? No wonder some are still languishing in the camps. To worsen it all, I have seen cases where relief food is stolen and put on sale. This is totally and out rightly unethical and uncalled for.

The El Nino scam is in the offing. What do you expect of a county that buys ten wheelbarrows at a total cost of a million shillings to do with lump sums set aside for El Nino? Or a county that purchases hospital curtains worth Kshs.7 million? But the ‘mother’ of all the El Nino scams will be by the central government which embodies corruption as its life blood. Expect massive squandering  and plundering of these funds.

Long-term policy solutions are key to dealing with disasters. We need to have in place a vibrant disaster management and operations centre that is operated by the national government. This centre has to be fully equipped with enough resources, both human and financial. A good number of higher learning institutions are currently offering courses in disaster operations and management. This pool of specialists needs to be highly tapped. The county governments also need to establish their own disaster operations centres. They too need to take advantage of the professionals being developed by the institutions of higher learning to effect this.
However, there are two bottlenecks to this advancement: corruption and the Kenyan culture of being reactive to situations and not proactive. It is our responsibility as citizens to seize the opportunity and demand that things be done in a certain fashion because we bear the burden of suffering. Above all we must ensure that leaders are held accountable for the public funds. In the meantime, let’s be ready just in case the monster (El Nino) decides to pay a visit.

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