Public Service: The Conundrum

One of the most coveted things in Kenya is a position in public service. Every young person wishes to get selected to serve in the public service upon finishing their education. The main reason is to seek employment and earn an income. For those already with comfortable incomes, motivation comes in way of influence, power, fame, control of resources etc, especially in the higher positions including political seats. In all, a career in public service can be rewarding especially financially. As a public servant you enjoy several perks. You are almost guaranteed a permanent job till retirement. You are assured of some form of retirement benefits. You are assured of a constant income mostly above average. You are assured of easier access to credit/loans through existing Sacco’s and other financial institutions which really favour public servants because of their ‘security of tenure’ and constant income. You are assured of labour rights because of membership to unions. You are assured of pay rises because of collective bargaining agreements. You are also assured of “extra” financial perks from not so legal avenues like bribes and incentives especially if you are in a position to influence decisions like tender outcomes, judgements, service delivery, arrests and prosecutions etc. The latter is especially prevalent in procurement positions, enforcement positions like the police and judiciary.

It is therefore a no brainer that as a fairly well remunerated work force compared to the general populace, public servants should be motivated to perform their duties almost to perfection. However, the opposite is true and the BIG question is WHY? You see, the private sector outperforms the public sector in all areas save for spending. When it comes to processes of doing things, the private sector tops with smooth result oriented processes. When it comes to technology uptake, the private sector leads. When it comes to service delivery, the private sector leads. When it comes to efficiency and economical use of resources, the private sector leads. A few examples come to mind.

Private schools lead in public examinations performance, in providing quality education and amenities. Similarly, private hospitals lead in provision quality healthcare and amenities. Oil marketers will provide better products available more widely than National oil. Private sugar millers survive when public ones struggle in debt. Private security companies provide better security solutions than the national police. Private telecommunication companies provide better services than government run ones. In fact, anywhere the public can get alternative services other than public, citizens will prefer the private ones. This fact alone has seen many public enterprises fall and their roles taken over by private ones. It is amazing how private sector Ceo’s can lead behemoth companies producing products and services with billions in revenues while well paid county bosses cannot come up with innovative and sustainable ways of raising revenue for their counties other than taxing small businesses to death. Even in decision making, our legislative bodies personnel rake in extravagant pay, bonuses and allowances but with very little to show for. Some Mp’s have never even spoken in parliament. Compare their committee sittings with those of private companie’s boards. The latter make far reaching decisions faster and implement them quickly for outcome.

The sad thing is, public servants are paid through collective tax revenue contributed by all and sundry and especially by the private sector workers. The education and professional qualifications acquired by those serving government and those servicing private sector are similar. But their output is totally difference. While the private sector is all about optimal delivery at minimal cost, the public sector is all about minimal delivery at highest cost. You all see the spending spree exhibited by parastatals for example. The employees will be driven around in big 4X4 vehicles, attending all manner of “important” meetings and seminars, earning hefty per diems and sitting allowances et cetera. Their counterparts in the private sector will earn minimal salaries, use public means or lean vehicles, earn just their salaries and a small lunch allowance, but they will still out perform their public sector colleagues in delivery. If you doubt, compare average workers in government versus average workers in the private sector. Compare that county government or parastatal driver versus one who works in a private company. Or even an accountant. Compare teachers and nurses. Every teacher who graduates prays to be employed by TSC. Same as nurses. Compare procurement staff in public versus their counterparts in the private sector. Remember in Kenya, the biggest private employers are the Indians. You all know their pay reputation. So, you know the wages of Kenyans in general. Many other employers cannot pay competitive wages because of the high taxes they have to pay to sustain the redundant public service and the challenging business conditions brought about by corruption, cheap imports, high power tariffs and slow or bureaucratic government processes such as licencing.

While I agree that probably the public sector employees are being paid and treated correctly as any employee deserves, it is their productivity that really comes to question considering that they are paid from the public purse. It seems we have a culture of incompetence in public service regardless of pay grade. Right across the board from the president to the ward representative’s office cleaner. That notion that ‘I am a public servant and therefore I can be lethargic’ is what eats us. Compare the attitudes you find with employees in public offices and what you get in private offices. Very different. The former see you as another problem or another cash cow to be milked, the latter will be eager to serve and provide real solutions and look forward to doing business with you again. I think we need to demand more from the public service OR implement strict performance based contracts once and for all.

Things have changed or in the process. Research more, siku hizi hakuna mchezo kwa many public institutions. The only undoing ni lack of efficiency. By the time some change is effected, utapata ni next election.

Ni juu public service huwezi futwa. Process ya kufuta mtu ni non existent. In private sector your job security depends on how you performed by the end of business yesterday.

For example public servant anaeza kurarua kofu na akuwe job the next day. In private sector kuongeleaha vibaya ata customer ananunua maji ndogo ya 15 bob unaeza futwa.

There’s no motivator to do anything in the public sector.

The change is minimal at most and its overwhelmingly outshone by the failures to change, try following up your payments in county governments, try following up anything with the police, apply some things on ecitizen see how long they take to be approved. Try sorting out tax issues with Kra ndio utajua wanaona wanakusaidia yet its their job to sort out issues. See the traffic police work. Check out the backlog of cases in the judiciary. Obado case was being listened to the other day. See the slowness in changing all these issues making it difficult to do business in Kenya like all those unnecessary permits, fees and taxes. Worst of all, some have problems even receiving payments. Try paying for a simple business permit in Kirinyaga county especially if you are in the liqour industry and you will know they dont know what they are doing. A case was filed in court against the liqour licence fees by the industry lobby group there. Now, that county has not been receiving business permit and health licence fees from bar and hotel owners pending determination of the case. Yet these are 3 different licences. If one has a court matter pending, what stops you from receiving payments of the others. Yet you will find the same county crying about financial constrains to service delivery when they have choked these revenue streams. Most public servants are a useless bunch who cannot change the fortunes of this country.

I’ve always known the public service imejaa Low IQ morons. No wonder this place is a shithole.

Spot on OP.
Just this weekend i was looking on as a bunch of rogue D- were strutting round the mtaa with the swag of mobb bosses or cartel leaders…and i asked myself how do we put these guys in check.
Call the cops when your in need poor or no response…snitch on a some illegal brewers or peddlers and they send an advance team and a back up team in no time…sometimes different units from different police stations.
I sat there and thought to myself…hawa waseh tutawasort aje?
Nika keti nikaona cant we as kenyans come up with a mulika polisi website or something ile ukienda stenje kureport kitu and nothing happens, your asked for a bribe, they dont take your statement/mis state your statement, your case files dissapear…whatever action/s that lead to miscarriage of justice…you mulika the cop jina, phone number, station, service number na hata picha yake if possible.
Halafu white hat hackers dig through the D- social media accounts and whatever else they can dig up including family members…then now to punish the wayward cop…his whole family pia iface isolation…mtu wa karao akienda hosi…asitibiwe…aki ingia bar…asipewe pombe…aki ingia mkahawa…asikuwe served…akienda kwa mama mboga…asipewe vegetables…hata matatu akipanda kibahati…ashukishwe as soon as donda realises huyo ni nani.
Just like tingas economic sabotage.
Then we slowly mobe on to other civil servants.
By the way im that desperate coz if you havent noticed ma D- are becoming dumber with each passing day…they are getting worse bana.
Tusaidiane tuokoe nchi yetu…wanasiasa hawatuokoa.
Have you seen the election budgets for the various positions…you think these vuys are putting in our their hard earned cash ama ni taxes zetu, pesa za madawa mosquito nets laptops fertilisers etc…wadau we need to do something…nyasi ndio inaumia.

Very true. What D- and other public service officers dont realize is that they are among the lucky few who have jobs in a world full of joblessness affecting even advanced economies. The way to thank God for that is to serve selflessly. They dont realize that once you get greedy and selfish matokeo ni kuona kina caroline kagongo. Such a website would be great.

If you want to become complacent build a career in civil service, when your job is done or you retire most public servants struggle to cope, those in the private sector have mostly built multiple skill-sets and have a good hand in side hustles/consulting

Hata si story na kuwa na job kwa hii joblesnes yote…its all about serving people graciously…the high you get watching contented clients the thank yous the relations you build…halafu majamaa hapa are finding comfort in blood, dirty money and other unmentionables…sijawahi elewa ma D- umeona hio kesi ya meru wale 2 boys who ‘jumped off the back of police land cruiser’ how do you explain that…by the way…the masses should get back at the cops…sooner rather than later.

It was in Embu. Imagine killing those two young brothers in cold blood. They will never see peace

Make the on contract terms. Halafu ikuwe renewable after 2 years. Kukuwe na AI which appraises. Na reviews like uber. Negative reviews contract is not renewed.

I thought of performance contracts as a means of straightening up the force…but trust me it wont work…because the D- still have wiggle room to choose where to perform and where to slack off.
We need a solution that instills complete fear in the force and the only way we can even things out is by subjecting them to the same level of pain and hurt if not more.
D- ni wajinga kupindukia bana…these guys are inhumane…boss kunasiku kulikuwa na rape case imepresentiwa stenje…ule karao ana andika statement ya matukio akijichekesha chekesha ka mjinga…very uncouth and insensitive.
Makarao wanafaa wa sortiwe bana.

Lets hope robot will replace them. In china cctv ndio ina piga patrol.