Doctors’ strike shows why State must rein in waste, theft of taxpayer money

Medics participating in a peaceful procession in Nairobi on April 16, 2024.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

A doctors’ strike has disrupted services in public hospitals in the past one month now.

At the heart of the dispute lies a 2017 collective bargaining agreement between the doctors and the government, which the latter claims due to its financial limitation cannot honour.

The fundamental issue is therefore the delicate balance between meeting the demands of healthcare professionals and managing the financial constraints.

As the government seeks to tighten its belt in the face of economic challenges, the elephant in the room remains the rampant wastage and corruption that plague county governments, State corporations and the national government.

It is true that non-performing State corporations, for example, have a direct link to national economic dynamics. It is also true that inefficient county governments are a drain on public resources.

Scrapping non-performing entities shouldn’t be perceived solely as a punitive measure, but rather as a strategic step towards reevaluating and optimising governance structures.

It reflects a commitment to fiscal responsibility and prudent resource management, that acknowledges entities failing to fulfil their objectives not only waste taxpayer money but also impede economic progress.

Moreover, consolidating resources and responsibilities under better-performing entities or alternative administrative arrangements could lead to more efficient use of public funds and improved outcomes for citizens like resolving the doctors' strike.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for citizens witnessing the government’s plea for financial constraints while the mismanagement of resources at various administrative levels goes unchecked.

The mismanagement of resources at the county level and within State corporations not only squanders public funds but also undermines the effectiveness of government services, including healthcare.

If resources were managed efficiently and corruption curtailed, would the government be in a better position to address the legitimate concerns of healthcare professionals, for example?

The answer seems obvious. It is to phase out the non-performing State corporations and even counties or merge them.

However, it’s essential to approach the evaluation of state cooperation and county performance with nuance and fairness. Not all struggling counties are necessarily beyond redemption, and factors such as historical context, resource availability, and external challenges must be taken into account. The process of scrutinizing and potentially dissolving non-performing entities must be transparent and participatory. Engaging stakeholders, including local communities, civil society organizations, and relevant experts, can ensure that decisions are well-informed and reflective of the broader public interest.

Ultimately, in light of the current impasse between the government and healthcare professionals, it is evident that a holistic approach is needed to resolve the crisis. While the government grapples with financial constraints, it cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the systemic issues of wastage and corruption that exacerbate the situation, the resolution of the doctors’ strike and the broader challenge of meeting the healthcare needs of the populace hinges on the government’s willingness to confront the root causes of inefficiency and corruption.

In conclusion, while the focus on economically unviable State Corporations is commendable, it’s equally imperative to address underperforming counties within the governance framework. Scrapping non-performing counties should be viewed as a proactive step towards optimizing governance structures, enhancing accountability, and ultimately, delivering better outcomes for citizens.

Through careful assessment, transparent processes, and stakeholder engagement, the government can navigate this complex terrain and pave the way for more effective and efficient governance.

The writer is a sustainable and disruptive strategies expert.

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