Here are President Magufuli’s Leadership Lessons for Kenya

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli’s first 100 days in office back in 2015, the hash­tag #What­Would­Magu­fuli­Do swept across Twit­ter and oth­er social media plat­forms. As we mourn his untime­ly pass­ing, we must revis­it this hash­tag and ask that ques­tion again, in rela­tion to the state of our Kenyan nation.

Magu­fuli was a res­olute leader whose clar­i­ty of pur­pose was nev­er dimmed by bureau­cra­cy or cir­cum­stance. Thir­ty days after ascend­ing to pres­i­den­cy, he announced a dras­ti­cal­ly scaled down cab­i­net of 19. The pre­vi­ous cab­i­net had com­prised of 30 cab­i­net mem­bers. Thank­ful­ly, our Kenyan con­sti­tu­tion only allows a max­i­mum of 22 cab­i­net sec­re­taries. How­ev­er, we must avoid waste­ful excess that con­tin­ues to man­i­fest itself in oth­er aspect of government.

A sim­ple exam­ple of wan­ton excess is the guz­zlers that are favored by politi­cians. They con­sume vast amounts of fuel that is paid for by tax pay­ers. Maybe it’s time to restore Pres­i­dent Keny­at­ta’s pre­vi­ous guz­zler ban. While serv­ing as finance min­is­ter in Kibak­i’s gov­ern­ment in 2009, Uhu­ru had insti­tut­ed a green pol­i­cy requir­ing Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and senior civ­il ser­vants to only dri­ve cars with fuel-effi­cient engines of less than 1,800cc. A restora­tion or enforce­ment of this pol­i­cy would hum­ble our lead­ers, save Kenya mil­lions even as it lessens pol­lu­tion. We could also go a notch high­er by stitch­ing to elec­tric cars. Indeed, pub­lic ser­vice should be char­ac­ter­ized not by big cars, but by big hearts, smart poli­cies and big service.

Anoth­er change that Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli effect­ed was pub­lic pro­cure­ment of goods and ser­vices. When he took over, inflat­ed costs were the order of the day. Magu­fuli decreed that any pub­lic ser­vant who con­doned or facil­i­tat­ed inflat­ed costs would be fired. This restored san­i­ty in pub­lic pro­cure­ment and saved the gov­ern­ment bil­lions. Inflat­ed costs are one of the worst kept secrets in gov­ern­ment ten­ders here in Kenya. We can address this by ful­ly dig­i­tiz­ing all pro­cure­ment of goods and ser­vices and truth­ful­ly open­ing them up to pub­lic scruti­ny at any giv­en time. That way, it will be clear for instance, that con­struc­tion of a road end­ed up cost­ing 100 mil­lion even though the mar­ket rate may be half that amount.

On his third day in office, Magu­fuli banned for­eign trav­el by pub­lic ser­vants. In the same breath, he ille­gal­ized first-class tick­ets for those who had to trav­el. This sim­ple mea­sure saved the Tan­zan­ian gov­ern­ment $429.5 mil­lion between Novem­ber 2015 and Novem­ber 2016. Think of how much mon­ey we will save if we walk down a sim­i­lar path! We don’t have to copy and paste exact­ly what he did, but should def­i­nite­ly be guid­ed by a north­ern star of end­ing gov­ern­ment excess in any shape or form. Waste­ful gov­ern­ment spend­ing is a slap in the face of hard­work­ing tax payers.

The Kenya gov­ern­ment was walk­ing in the right direc­tion when it banned hold­ing gov­ern­ment meet­ings in pri­vate hotels. It how­ev­er, rescind­ed this ban in June 2020, in order to sup­port the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor. The spir­it behind the ini­tial ban must be upheld in oth­er sec­tors of pub­lic spend­ing. There must be an all-out war on excess.

Inter­est­ing­ly, in the ear­ly days of his pres­i­den­cy, Magu­fuli put a stop to unnec­es­sary phys­i­cal meet­ings and direct­ed offi­cials to instead hold con­fer­ence calls. This was long before the covid-19 pan­dem­ic neces­si­tat­ed vir­tu­al meet­ings. Now that we have to adjust to life with the Coro­na threat hang­ing over our heads, vir­tu­al gov­ern­ment meet­ings must be the norm, not the excep­tion. How­ev­er, funds saved must always be disclosed.

Through Dr. Magu­fuli’s no-non­sense res­o­lu­tion, the Tan­za­nia Rev­enue Author­i­ty (TRA) dras­ti­cal­ly increased its month­ly rev­enue from Tan­za­nia shillings 900 bil­lion to Tan­za­nia Shillings 1.8 tril­lion. The Kenya Rev­enue Author­i­ty could use such res­o­lu­tion. How­ev­er, increased tax rev­enue should always go hand in hand with increased effi­cien­cy in usage of tax pay­er money.

Magu­fuli’s res­olute lead­er­ship was par­tic­u­lar­ly evi­dent in his zero tol­er­ance of incom­pe­ten­cy in pub­lic ser­vants. With­in the first nine­ty days of his tenure, he fired more than 150 senior civ­il servants.

Here in Kenya, we must also do what­ev­er it takes to uphold high­ly effi­cient, account­able and trans­par­ent pub­lic ser­vice. The same way we can­not tol­er­ate incom­pe­tence in the pri­vate sec­tor, we must not do so in the pub­lic sector.

Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli was a unique, trans­for­ma­tive leader who deployed his author­i­tar­i­an ten­den­cies towards the good of the com­mon man. His flaws should not mask the incred­i­ble lead­er­ship lessons that can make his coun­try and the entire Africa a bet­ter place. Mean­while, may God Almighty favor Tan­za­ni­a’s first ever woman Pres­i­dent Samia Suluhu Hassan.

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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