Chairpersons, Council Members and CEO’s of the various professional bodies
• Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK),
• Law Society of Kenya (LSK),
• Kenya Institute of Supplies management (KISM),
• Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM),
• Institute of Certified Secretaries (ICS),
Kenyan Professionals, Distinguished guests,
THE FUTURE OF KENYA IS THE FUTURE OF THE KENYAN PROFESSIONAL.
This is a critical opportunity for all of us to reason together, reflect and understand the role of professionals and of professional organisations in the management of public affairs, the running of government, the implementation of development programmes, delivery of public services and, yes, in the fight against corruption.
Kenya has been deeply immersed in a lengthy season of change, as we reorient our organisations and institutions to become vessels of transformation.
Kenya’s education system has, over the years of our independence, progressively produced human capital that is outstanding in many ways.
The development of this human capital has enabled us to produce a broad and diverse array of competitive professionals at every level.
When you look at the post-independence sessional papers and other policy documents, it is clear that the country was grappling with serious resource shortfalls and high public expectations, yet had to deliver effective government services with few qualified professionals at hand.
The Ndegwa Report of 1971, and the Waruhiu Report of 1979 make it clear that the zeal, and patriotic commitment as well as professional dedication of the public servants of that time enabled us evolve a professional cadre that easily makes Kenya a power house in many sectors, regionally, continentally and globally.
The Kenyan human resource capital is highly regarded worldwide and therefore should be the biggest contributor to driving public service, national development and national discourse.
It is inevitable, therefore, that professionals are expected to be the biggest drivers in all matters pertaining to the common good, public welfare and national service.
Thus, an awareness of this expectation must be reflected in the graduates we train, the manifestos and policy frameworks we design as well as the development strategies and ideas that underpin projects and programmes.
This is because the engineers supervising works, professors and lecturers teaching, accountants and economists managing resources and so on are professionals at work.
The quality of our leaders and their work should also reflect sound professional grounding. Conscious of this, Kenya has done quite well by its professionals. Our achievement in infrastructure development, education and health outcomes, service industry, technology and innovation is because of the quality of our human capital.
We are the envy of many in this region in terms of road and rail expansion, power connectivity, leading in clean energy use in Africa and ninth in geothermal development worldwide and other renewable energy generation.
Our arrays of professionals are leading innovation in the banking, insurance and Telkom sectors (you are quite conversant with the Mpesa phenomena), tourism and hospitality sectors, literacy levels, health and ICT.
Kenyan professionals delivered all these achievements. Kenyan professionals have not stopped there; it is now widely acknowledged that Kenyans are ready to make their mark on the global stage.
That is why a local professional, Prof. Calestous Juma, former Director Science, Technology and Globalization Project at Harvard Kennedy School, became an acclaimed global thought leader, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, of Kenya, is UNCTAD’s seventh Secretary- General and Charles Mwangi is the Director of Engineering at American Company Tesla Motors Incorporated.
That is why a lady from Nyeri, Prof Wangari Maathai, went on to change her country and win the Nobel Prize for Peace and many brilliant Kenyan professionals are providing leadership at the top of international organisations.
You are aware the radical impact of Capt. Koki Mutungi, the young lady who took to the skies in a jumbo jet, showing girls of the Global South that it is all doable.
Our pool of professional women at the top levels is expanding dramatically, glass ceiling or no, and as they demonstrate their capability, mindsets, cultures and entire social institutions are being transformed and updated.
Although we are quite some distance from where we should be, it would be a cruel lie to deny that we aren’t making serious progress.
It was a consortium of Kenyan professionals who put Kenya on a firm path of national strategic planning and implementation, eventually delivering Vision 2030. Our professionals in the diaspora continue to impress and do us proud.
The Jubilee administration has sustained and escalated investment aimed at delivering globally competitive human capital through free and compulsory primary education, free secondary education as well as university and technical college capitation.
At each of those educational stages, we have deliberately gone out to create environments where strong future professionals are incrementally developed to sustain and raise our already high standard.
I really do not believe that it is fair to conclude my reflection without acknowledging the great impact of the former President, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. Through patient and consistent work over many decades, he expanded access to education for Kenyans regardless of regional, economic and cultural backgrounds.
Professionals must lead organisations and institutions. Therefore you, as professionals, are the drivers of change. All the great things that we have and can achieve as a society are to a large part attributable to the important role of professionals.
In the last 15 years, I have witnessed enormous contribution made by professionals in public service. When we took over in 2013, we found challenges but when we invited professionals for advice, we were able to untie loose ends, changed the model of electricity connectivity, reduced road construction costs and turned around NHIF contribution and now we are reforming the Fund to make it more efficient.
Similarly, a large portion of blame for shortcomings may be seen as failures attributable to professionals and professional organisations.
When we talk about the corruption, we may move from broad generalities and begin to examine the role of specific professionals in the mechanics of every corrupt incident.
Judicial corruption involves wayward lawyers on the bar and on the bench. A bad decision procured for a valuable reward requires lawyers willing to negotiate terms and coordinate modalities by which the justice will be perverted.
Corruption involving misappropriation, embezzlement of public funds entails an understanding among and between accountants, auditors, economists and such like professionals to see to it that budgets are diverted and misused.
Similarly, bad roads are a direct consequence of corrupt dealings involving engineers who may compromise designs, or be lax in supervising works, or permit shortcuts to be taken, or approve substandard work as completed and due for payment.
We cannot run away from the fact that professionals face many challenges. Lecturers who award grades on the basis of inappropriate relations, Engineers who approve substandard and dangerous structures, putting many innocent lives at risk from possible collapse, as well as costly, substandard works.
Lawyers who formulate instruments and other arrangements, including legal opinions that become conduits in the theft of public resources.
Auditors who sign off cooked books that end up legitimizing misappropriation of public and private resources.
Accountants who manipulate numbers, occasioning loss of value in the public and private sectors. Surveyors and planners who facilitate expropriation of public land in shoddy and corrupt schemes. Human Resource managers who skew interviews and promotions and sacrifice merit at the shrine of tribalism, and qualification on the altar of nepotism. Judges who auction justice to the highest bidder, consigning innocent people to untold suffering.
We have media practitioners who file fake stories influenced by “brown envelopes”.
It is true to state that by and large, our most vexing problems as a nation have a strong professional component. And they relate to our professionals failing to rise to their highest standard and full potential.
To manage these problems, it is important that our professionals organize themselves within national professional organisations that can provide peer assessment, call out unprofessional colleagues and provide an environment for continuous all-round improvement.
Once professionals are able to hold themselves to account in a transparent and credible manner, membership of professions begin to count for something, and registration certificates will signify more than mere formal entry.
Membership of professional bodies is then a reference to a standard of integrity, excellence, legitimacy and credibility. Because misconduct by a single member will have serious ramifications for the entire body, accountability will be rigorous. This should be the aim of our professional bodies as they make progress in overcoming the serious challenges outlined above.
The Constitution and consequential legislation very deliberately ring-fence important responsibilities for specific professions, with clear roles for professional bodies. This is because the constitution recognizes that the integrity of Kenya depends on the integrity of professional bodies and of their members as individuals.
I think that it is always good to call a spade a spade. Nepotism and tribalism are now serious problems that are undermining the foundations of professional legitimacy and credibility in Kenya.
The first agenda of this reflection is therefore to interrogate the quality of intra-professional discourse and engagement between professional organisations.
Good governance needs strong, independent and assertive professionals and professional organisations to raise the bar and improve the quality of service delivery.
An illustration of how credible professional bodies can lead and define progress and also how compromised professional organisations can infect society in general has to be that of our lawyers.
Not long ago, the LSK was a society whose legitimacy and credibility were absolutely beyond question. The LSK of Pheroze Nowrojee, Fred Ojiambo, Paul Muite, Gibson Kuria and Joe Okwatch was the nation’s voice of reason and our society’s conscience.
It embodied our highest standards and championed our most important aspirations. It spoke effectively to our values. It was non-partisan, non-tribal, principled and progressive, independent and consistent.
The contemporary LSK is a far cry from this formidable organisation. Today’s LSK is characterized by factional wrangles, internal strife and suffers ethnic strife.
LSK leadership elections are little more than a farce determined, not by the strength of intellectual and ethical appeal, nor service record or the respect of peers.
Rather, its outcome is predictable along sheer ethnic numbers mobilised by appeals to considerations other than professional integrity and leadership or commitment to the highest standards.
This fall from grace has knock-on effects on every institution in which lawyers are represented. Our troubles with the rule of law and corruption may therefore be seen in the light of this collapse of the credibility of the LSK. And I am not just talking about LSK, other professional bodies too face similar problems.
I suggest that we all strive to become institutions of record, whose voices resonate with societal values and aspirations, and whose standards command respect.
Let us use the example of LSK in its golden years, whose national and regional authority was comparable with the Canadian and the American, New York Bar associations.
For this reason, we especially in government, benefit when we are challenged by the ideas generated by principled and robust professionals.
One of the things that we must touch on, therefore, is the restoration of independence and credibility of the Kenyan professional and of the Kenyan professional organization.
So far, I have covered the historical context, challenges and achievements of our professions, professional bodies and professional standards in the context of national development in the private and public sector.
It is very fashionable to dwell to long on doom and gloom, when the picture could not be more promising. What does the future hold for our professionals?
The stability, progress and prosperity of any nation are built on the back of its professionals.
Vision 2030 and the Big 4 Agenda as well as other development programmes and projects will succeed on the professionalism of our intellectuals, managers, executives and service-level professionals in every sector.
Housing will enlist architects, engineers, planners, quantity surveyors and interior designers, among other talent and skills.
Food and nutrition security will call for agronomists, nutritionists, water engineers and myriad other agriculture and food sector professionals.
Manufacturing and health similarly demand the services and the best ideas of respective professionals. Economists, lawyers, human resource practitioners, accountants and secretaries are often involved across sectors as enablers and facilitators of the sectors.
Similarly, the other great challenge for our time: the Fight Against Corruption will succeed or fail on how professionally we deal with it.
This is to say that this vital agenda will depend on the commitment of the professionals tasked with it.
I speak on this matter knowing very well that there have been attempts to profile the political war against William Ruto to be the War on corruption.
There has also been an attempt to hijack the war on corruption and turn it into a war against (a) specific individual(s).
In the attempt to wage this convoluted version of the war on corruption, many government programmes and projects, as well as many innocent public servants have become casualties.
I am surprised that there are people who have a problem with my constant assertion that the war on corruption must be fact-led and evidence–based in accordance with the law.
How can you have a problem with the truth, with facts, with evidence and with the law if you are really fighting corruption? The war on corruption is an integrity war. A war on corruption that lacks integrity ceases to be a war on corruption and becomes corruption itself. Integrity war that lack integrity is impunity. An integrity war waged selectively, using convenient half-truths, with political outcomes in mind, is impunity.
In 2010, we gave ourselves a constitution that commits us to be a nation of laws, of values and of sound institutions. We are categorically a nation of the rule of law, not the rule of man. The practice of walking back on the rule of law – where a target is first identified, and then offenses formulated, and then evidence constructed – is a dangerous manifestation of impunity.
I know that what I am saying is not fashionable today, but in the fullness of time, my message will be appreciated.
The reason why the war on corruption has been conveniently turned into a political war is because our competitors have nothing with which to challenge Jubilee, save for falsehood and empty propaganda.
Jubilee’s transformational achievements, including a model for national cohesion and unity, and in unlocking the ideas, skills and talents of our professionals to unlock national developmental potential, is not good news for our competitors and detractors. Their only strategy is to discredit and whitewash all achievements with politically crafted corruption narratives.
The targeting of parties and individuals with corruption allegations correlates with prevailing or impending political competition. It is therefore safe to say that the current highly personalized, high- octane smear campaign that is allergic to fact, truth and evidence, is a strong signal of the contours of political competition.
It will be retired unceremoniously when its political utility is exhausted. And therein lies the tragedy: what then happens to the war on corruption when it is no longer politically convenient to fight the profiled target?
When they cannot play the game by the rules, on the field, before the umpire, these political competitors drag you into a dark alley to grapple with thugs who have declared themselves winners in any event. This is where I find myself.
To combat this malady, the country is looking for your professional leadership. It is you who must provide the leadership that we are looking for.
The war on corruption is best waged through strong independent institutions. Institutions are as good as the professionals driving them.
The Big 4 Agenda anticipates your capability to deliver strong sectoral and overall economic performance that will drive rapid growth throughout Kenya.
And as I conclude my remarks, we expect that professionals will accelerate the fast delivery of strategic interventions in housing, food and nutrition security, health and manufacturing.
The future of Kenya is the future of Kenyan professionals.