LETTERS: The role of policy in guiding public affairs

A boardroom. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A boardroom. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Government policy informs public conduct and that’s why there is need for it to be tested before being administered.

The May 2019 policy measure that banned the importation of used vehicle parts has sparked a string of undesired causal effects, intimating a lack of capacity in spotting and analysing likely consequences of policy choices, lack of test runs to ascertain policy effectiveness or inform on their viability.

More often than not, the undesired consequences get realised upon the implementation of most policy instruments, which should not be the case.

The sale of automotive spare parts is a big industry that employs thousands across the country either directly or indirectly. For instance, more than 90 percent of shops along Kirinyaga Road, Kamukunji and Globe Cinema Roundabout in Nairobi County deal in the sale of automotive parts, a majority of which specialise in used car parts.

Administered guidelines on the importation of used car parts are nonlinear and encyclical. Those measures left dealers of used automotive spare parts with three options, either a change of business, source for salvage vehicles to dismantle or close shop.


Upgrading to new automotive spare parts is capital intensive and a tall order to most small and medium traders within the current state of the economy. Besides, securing credit from local financial institutions is a challenge due to stringent terms of engagement advanced on perceived risky clients.

Local car owners have a higher preference for used car parts as opposed to new ones since they are pocket-friendly; readily available; durable and of superior quality.

On the other hand, consumers are cautious about counterfeits and substandard products rampant with new car parts and especially those whose brand names are suspect.

Again, policy guidelines on the importation of second-hand car parts had a two-way causal effect; the desired expectation and the undesired outcomes. According to 'Archer's paradox’ an arrow drawn from an inaccurate spine makes unpredictable and inconsistent contacts and forces. Same case with a wrongly administered policy instrument. No matter how well-intended a policy instrument may be, a presumption of its readiness for administration, and effectiveness in achieving desired goals, is guided under public participation forums.

Rushing policy administration leads to punctuated equilibriums occasioned by short-term instability bursts in administration processes, in a state of sustained and stable policy stability. Instability bursts hinder intended purpose and outcome of a policy measure.

Incidentally, those guidelines targeting importation of used automotive spare parts have triggered a series of car theft, seemingly for dismembering and restocking. This view is not in any way suggestive of a link between reported incidents and dealership of used car parts. However, the two factors are somewhat correlated as survival means to several sector actors is questionable.

In the words of Prof Mutahi Ngunyi, such characters are the organised minority evil, whom incidentally, are more effective in their undertakings than the majority good.

As the crime wave in the automotive industry rise, roadblocks mounted along major highways are being downscaled. Another policy shift that is in contradiction to the comprehensive rationality test, which translates policy proposal values, aims, and effectiveness towards administering public affairs.

Kiragu Kariuki Nyeri County.