Opinion by Eric Ng’eno
The Jubilee Coalition encapsulated its entire module of campaign pledges in two tidy slogans: â€œI Believeâ€, and â€œKusema na Kutendaâ€.
The message was that Kenya has never been short of innovative, progressive ideas. Rather, the lack of willingness, discipline and energy to implement commitments, pledges, policies and programmes was an endemic shortcoming of our body-politic.
The promise of action was enough to get the entire nationâ€™s attention. Kenyans endorsed the â€œKusemaâ€ dimension (the pledges in the manifesto) on March 4.
Ever since, they have been waiting for â€œKutendaâ€ to happen, and happen dramatically. But now, very uncomfortable questions are being asked.
All I can say is that it is a very painful time to be a â€˜Jubilantâ€™, because many of us share the disillusionment, yet feel a reflexive obligation to defend the government. We need something to work with, and quickly too.
Look at the Huduma Centres; thereâ€™s a right miracle requiring immediate nationwide roll-out. It is digital, it is useful and it is very â€œKutendaâ€.
But for every Huduma Centre, there is a litany of instances where bureaucrats have applied the hand-brake on Jubileeâ€™s executive momentum.
Everyone seems to have a grenade nowadays. Police visibility is nil. Public sector thieves are not even looking behind their shoulder before dipping their hands into the till. The civil service is as inert, complicit, anachronistic and comfortable as ever.
On the other hand, the President and his Deputy still talk the language of transformation, poverty eradication, war on corruption, Vision 2030 and double-digit economic growth with evangelistic zeal.
Very few doubt their sincerity, yet many are losing hope of it all happening under Jubilee. Why?
The constitutional Executive has an interesting duality. â€œKusemaâ€ happens at the top: the presidency and Cabinet.
After that, the civil service takes over and is expected to implement Executive decisions with diligence and fidelity.
Anyone having intimate contact with the civil service will experience the dark menacing suggestion of a â€œparallel stateâ€. This â€œstateâ€ is as real, yet as illegitimate, as the black economy.
It reposes in the machinations of several well-placed potentates in the civil service who channel executive power to secure objectives separate and distinct from those pursued by the constitutional Executive.
These objectives collide all the time. When that happens, Executive paraplegia is at its most spectacular.
The Executive is a repository of immense power â€” all arms of government operate through it â€” but the civil service has many controls on this power: procedural, jurisdictional and budgetary restrictions to prevent excesses and malpractices.
These controls also provide the clout senior civil servants need to facilitate the objectives they favour, and to thwart those they donâ€™t. â€œIt is not in the budgetâ€.
A memo has to be drawn to the Principal Under-whatever to initiate a confusing sequence of bureaucratic rituals before a committee, task force, or working group is formed to look into the matter.
The sum total of all this is to stop government in its tracks. In civil service discourse, it is rare to sense any consciousness of, or deference to, public interest.
A civil service that has become a parallel state is dangerous. A parallel state beholden to a retinue of vested interests is even more so.
There was a time many rejoiced in Mr Raila Odingaâ€™s travails in the Grand Coalition Government.
Often, he had to go public about the frustrations his office endured at the hands of powerful civil servants. He could not push the most straightforward directive without encountering a flurry of coordinated soft resistance within the service.
To strengthen its hand, the PNU wing of the coalition had surreptitiously enlisted the civil service as a third partner. This necessitated granting certain decisional and operational latitudes to senior civil servants to enable them effectively molest ODM.
By the conclusion of the ill-begotten coalition government, civil servants were selling hotels, embassies, and sponsoring presidential candidates with impunity. A parallel state had been instituted.
Since no major changes have been made in the civil service, the parallel state remains intact and active, right at the heart of the Jubilee administration.
According to its thinking, the civil service is in a power-sharing arrangement with the Jubilee Government. Its implicit terms of reference are to contain and manage the Executive.
This entails actively obstructing initiatives likely to realise the manifesto. And worse.
Devolution is facing systematic sabotage. Similarly the laptops initiative.
In a conversation recently, a senior civil servant suggested that the President should tone down his anti-corruption rhetoric.
When I asked why, he stated that it is undermining morale in the civil service. Ponder that!
Mr Ngâ€™eno is the speech-writer for President Kenyatta. The views expressed here are personal. (firstname.lastname@example.org). This opinion piece first appeared in the Daily Nation.