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Is this job a joke?

Sep 02, 2007 Management, Sunday Nation

Would you care for this job?

This is one of the top positions in the country, commensurate with excellent pay, status and perks. Ah, you ask: that probably means there’s a lot of stress and responsibility attached. Not at all! Any idiot can do this job (and many do). Responsibility and accountability are minimal.

Qualifications: none! Didn’t read much as a child, and failed to get those important pieces of paper when you left school? Not a problem. You simply apply, and after a brief but tumultuous selection process in which you pit your wits against some other contenders, you’re appointed. Getting interested? We thought you might be.

The workload must be huge, surely? Again, no. This is a beautiful job. You have a place of work, yes, and there is an annual work schedule. But you are under absolutely no obligation to show up there! Take it easy, come to work whenever you like. That leaves you free to do whatever else you like doing: conduct other businesses; have affairs; hang around bars with your peers; or just do nothing.

In return you will get a world-beating pay package that includes: a handsome salary; a big car; amazing travel allowances; free security. Hey, we’ll even throw in a gun in case you want to protect yourself from unfortunate Kenyans.

Performance measures, appraisals, evaluations? No, no, none of that new-fangled wrong-headed modern management gibberish has ever penetrated the very thick walls of our establishment. And never will, so rest assured: no-one will be going around measuring your performance. We’re all friends here!

And did we mention the clincher? Guess who sets your pay? No, no, not your boss. You don’t really have a boss. There are shareholders, yes, but they don’t seem to care what happens. So the person who decides what you get is…you! Isn’t that just amazing? You will receive an irrevocable 5-year contract (renewable); and we are currently trying to arrange a HUGE golden handshake at the end of the term, to thank you for your hard work.

We see you are running to update your CV. But you’ll need a job title before you prepare an application. This position is called Member of Parliament in the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Kenya. Apply within; you may be set up for life.

Jokes aside (as they never say in the august House), it’s time we all got a little outraged about our MPs. The National Assembly must be one of the most colossal wastes of money known to humankind. A job that lavishes rewards for no performance can only have been designed by the job-holders themselves.

But your MP will no doubt tell you that he (he is unlikely to be a she) does Very Important Work in the hallowed chamber. Yes, issues such as monkeys harassing peasant women in the fields (forcing them to wear trousers) are regularly discussed and debated at great length. The few people who show up to work are often ready to exchange insults and blows (including the few ‘shes’).

These are the people who allow important bills to be passed without a quorum, and then want to convince you about their effort and endeavour. These are the people who let a dreadfully regressive Media Bill pass under their noses without showing up at the chamber to debate it; they then take to the streets protesting and showing their solidarity with heroic journalists.

If you want these people to think about any important issue, you must fund a ‘retreat’ (from what?) to take them to Mombasa to reflect on the matter amidst the cooling ocean breezes. You must give them a ticket and hefty allowances while they’re there, so that they don’t have any minor financial worries to distract them while they are with you.

Having violated your trust for five years, these people now want to award themselves a generous thank-you present (from you) so that you get a chance to express gratitude to them for advancing the nation during their last 60 months in office. Sorry, delete ‘in office’, because they were never there.

Jokes aside (because the joke’s on you), why do you stand for this? Why do you accept it, tolerate it, humour it, laugh it off? Your money is being used to block the important business that would improve your life and advance your nation – but you want to stand there laughing?

The House of Parliament is an extremely important place. It is a crucial institution in the national landscape. Contrary to what the current inhabitants might have you believe, it is not a circus tent. It is a serious place that should be populated with serious people.

The best news I saw recently concerned a poll that indicated 90 per cent of Kenyans intend to vote out their member of parliament. If true, that is an excellent intention. The only quick way to get good performance happening is to penalise bad performance. The vote is the only weapon you have. Put it in your whip-hand and crack it.

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