The late President Mwai Kibaki’s rather stellar-rated performance in uplifting Kenya’s economy perhaps supersedes his prowess as an astute politician.
At the heart of his economic success, was the performance contracting which sought to define key targets to be achieved by public servants.
“He knew unless you have competent experts and analytical staff, that is the only way you can deliver Vision 2030,” says Prof. Margaret Kobia Public Service, Youth Affairs and Gender Cabinet Secretary.
She goes on, “It was a very agreed democratic approach that made Kenyans and public service more motivated having come from 24 years of integrity and meritocracy issues. We really saw a transformed public service because of bringing in strong thinkers and experts.”
According to Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mugo Kibati and the founding Director-General of the Vision 2030 Delivery Board, President Kibaki’s style of leadership reignited the economy’s growth from its inert state.
Kibati remembers private meetings chaired by the late president in Harambee House and State House Nairobi, “He was a man who believed in systems and structures. For me, the fact that he allowed everybody room to operate, he built consensus and he never wanted to rush to decisions. He wanted decisions to be made only after full and proper consultations and preferably he wanted a team to make decisions going forward. This was the most impressive thing about him.”
Prof. Kobia who previously headed the Kenya School of Government (KSG) sayd the Head of State was keen on changing the work culture in the public service which led to the introduction of a performance contract in 2004 with the first pilot evaluating 16 state agencies being conducted in 2006.
However, while the policy was termed brilliant, there were those who questions the impact the policy has had on the overall performance of the public sector.
“The 16 State corporations recorded an increase of 282% in net pre-tax profits over the previous period (2003/4) and an increase of 14% over set targets. In absolute terms, the State corporations achieved Kshs. 9.3 billion against a combined target of Kshs. 8.2 billion and a previous year’s performance of Kshs. 2.4 billion,” wrote Amb. Anthony Muchiri, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission on the Business Daily.
Muchiri said the evaluation showed the potential the performance contract would have on the entire public service.
As a result, the performance contract was introduced to the entire public service beginning July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006.
Industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria, who was the founding chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) created during Kibaki’s reign, says the late president’s insistence on performance was also key in the private businesses lending a hand and helping the government in its economic agenda.
“He insisted on issues and making people deliver. I’m not a public servant but as a business person he wanted us to deliver what his idea was,” said Dr Chandaria.
The introduction of the performance contract also attracted talents from the private sector, among them Kibati who says was also supported by President Kibaki’s visions.
“It was a very objective system, and for people such as myself who were younger and hardly knew him working with some of his personal friends for many years, as far as he was concerned, we were there to deliver on his objectives and vision and he treated people equally,” said Kibati.
According to Prof. Kobia, performance contract has been instrumental in bringing accountability and enhancing productivity among public servants.
This she says has laid the foundation for the major government policy directives such as the Big 4 Agenda under President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Performance Management Regulations 2021 is now backed to enhance public sector output.