Raila Odinga

I regard the Civil Service as the foundation of nation-building and national development. Nations begin to fail when the civil service begins to fail.

Over the years, Kenya has maintained a comparatively functional civil service. But there remains tremendous room for improvement.

I envisage a civil service that is defined by discipline, hard work, high morale, efficiency, and high ethical standards.

How do we realize this?

We must address the issues of nepotism, tribalism, and favoritism in the civil service. These three ills have demoralized so many officers who then become mere hostages to a system they believe does not appreciate them.

Frustrated officers stay on just to secure pension and turn to other ways to supplement income and get fulfillment. They become brokers where they are supposed to be moderators. The nation and citizens are the losers.

We must give our civil servants the assurance that if they work hard, maintain a clean record, exercise discipline, then nothing will stand between them and rising to the top.

We need to design and adhere to a clear career progression path for civil servants that stands no matter which party or leader takes power in Kenya. It’s possible to run a civil service that thrives on seniority and merit-based promotions.

We have to eliminate conflict of interest in the civil service. This is the main cause of the corruption, public mistrust, and poor and delayed services that have come to be associated with the public sector. When government procurement officers are also suppliers, the consequences are obvious.

We need to promote creativity in the civil service. World over, civil servants tend to play safe, merely taking and implementing instructions. Kenya is not any different. We have to change this and institutionalize ways to enable civil servants who have different ideas on how to do better, bring their ideas to the table.

We need to devise a way through which civil servants can be allowed to spend time in the private sector and return to public service. Such a system creates an understanding in the public service of how the private sector does its work and how the two sectors can complement each other.

We must enhance the capacity of the civil service to engage in strategic thinking. Many times, civil servants are caught in routine office work.

We need to push our civil service in the direction of the private sector where strategic thinking rather than business as usual and maintaining the status quo is a must or you sink.

We must create linkages between the government and the private sector, particularly the think tanks to enable civil servants to pursue routine work and engage in strategic thinking at the same time.

We need to put maximum emphasis on creating and making use of first-rate think tanks who have no job other than to think for the country. We will need to pack such institutions with the best brains and experienced hands and use them to feed our civil service with timely research, analysis, and policy suggestions.

We made full use of the National Economic and Social Council with spectacular results in the Grand Coalition Government. We must borrow from the developed world where public policy think tanks are all over the place and are constant players in government.

We will need to maintain an up-to-date database of solid professionals and experts on issues like manufacturing, technology, economy, education, youth, and international affairs and constantly tap into them.

As we tap into think tanks, refresher courses for civil servants will be a must. These are important in helping steer officers away from what has worked in the past to what addresses current and anticipated challenges.

With these measures in place, we can then institute a system for ensuring competitive pay and a welfare system covering basic salary, allowances, and welfare Expenses.