Friday, December 19, 2008

Safaricom Data - Marked Improvement

As a follow-on from this post, I have recently noticed a significant improvement in quality of Safaricom's data network. 

Reception is now stronger than ever before and the constant disconnections I had earlier complained about seem to be gone. 

Great stuff and long may it continue. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The current saga with the ECK has totally shocked and outraged me. What does somebody have to do to be discredited in this country?

The ECK oversaw an election that brought this country to the brink of war. That is a fact...and that has to be a sackable offense. 

As I see it, the ECK has two main responsibilities as relates to elections:

1) Conduct free and fair elections

2) Always be perceived to carry out 1) above.

The second responsibility is at least as important as the first. It is what builds the credibility of the institution. They totally, completely, catastrophically failed to fulfil the second function of their existence. 

It should not even have been a matter of waiting to be sacked..these guys should have walked the day the peace agreement was signed AND they should have abdicated any right they had to any payments arising from this election. 

There may be a case to be made for keeping or reassigning the staff but the mangement of the organisation (the commisioners) should slink away quietly and never ever even fathom the idea of holding any public positions ever again. 

They are either negligent or incompetent and the very loud message all Kenyans should be sending out is that there is no room for negligence or incompetence in tax-payer funded positions. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Passport Control - 2

Following on from this post, here is a list of my observations of the shortcomings in the passport collection system and suggestions to make it better. 

1. Tracking Information: The online tracking system should be working. Even in the absence of that, absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever should somebody be told to go and collect their passport before it is actually ready to be handed over to them. Immigration should also insist that everyone who is going to collect their passport either checks online (when they fix the system) or calls in beforehand to ascertain whether the passport is actually ready. That way, you avoid having people making the trip and contributing to the congestion and confusion in the banking hall unnecessarily. 

2. Crowd Control in Banking Hall: Sometimes, they have a guy posted at the main door, checking what people are going to do in the hall and turning away those that don't have receipts (this obviously tends to be around lunch-time when it becomes more important to reduce the rush). If you show this guy your receipt, he allows you in and points to Counter 13 as where you need to go. Unfortunately, Counter 13 has 3 workstations, which generate 3 queues. Only two of those stations deal with checking passport status. Immigration have provided no way whatsoever for somebody to know what queue is for what..except asking other people who are its pretty easy to queue in the enquiries line, then have to re-queue to check your status.

To further compound this problem, quite a large percentage of the time, the workstations are left unmanned. This means that you end up with a situation where one queue moves while the other stands still or both don't move or the first stands still while the second moves. 

I would suggest having two queues. One leading to the workstation on the extreme left of the three workstations at Counter 13 for General Enquiries and the other feeding to the other two workstations for passport status checking. The queues should be separated by these barrier things you find in banks and there should be signs above each workstation to inform customers where to go. (Ofcourse, if suggestions from point 1 above were in place, the 'check passport status queue could be done away with altogether). I would further suggest instituting a policy that workstations must be manned for at least 95% of the working day. 

3. Convoluted System: Why queue to Counter 13 to check status, then queue for Counter 14 to hand over your receipt, then wait? Why not queue to Counter 13, hand over your receipt and wait for your passport to be delivered at Counter 14? That eliminates one queue and cuts down on confusion about the place.

4. Staff: The staff are rude, sullen and surly BUT I don't know that I could fully blame them(frontline staff that is). They are operating within a system that may as well have been designed by a child. Such is its unsuitability to the purpose that it serves. When I was walking around complaining, quite often the staff response was "We are doing the very best we can....Look at how many people we have to serve". What they don't seem to understand or realize is that a large percentage of the people crowding the hall are only there because the system is so very poorly designed and so utterly inefficient. 

Mr. Karoki complained about going to get my passport personally BUT he only had to do so because the system that he oversees is totally useless so he ends up wasting time dealing with stupid minor things like going to collect one individuals passport instead of doing his job of ensuring efficiency. And that brings me to my main point...

5. Management: IMHO, these guys are either incompetent or indifferent. Either way, they should be sent packing. 

It is they who design the system, train and deploy the staff and are responsible for customer satisfaction. From my experiences at this place over many days, they completely fail on all counts. 

Like I said, the fact that the officer-in-charge was wasting time collecting my passport personally is a symptom of his failure to do his job. He should be ensuring that the system he runs fulfils its function so well that no silly little complaints/issues come his way and he can concentrate on his core function..oversight and ensuring service delivery. 

I also think that every PS and minister should be forced to have their applications dealt with in the same manner as your ordinary mwananchi because I am positive that would quickly see the system cleaned up, streamlined and made more efficient. Part of this problem is that it seems 'Wakubwa" actually have no idea of the rot that exists in these sorts of departments...simply because they don't actually ever experience the paralysing inefficiency that characterizes operations in these departments. 

None of the suggestions I had require that much monetary input. I mean, they have a huge screen TV in the hall..why not put it to some use; for example; to alert customers to proceed to Counter 14 to pick their passports? They could easily use the split screen function and have half the screen showing Citizen or whatever and the other scrolling the names of the ready for collection passports (rather than have some hoarse voiced fellow shouting names and nobody being able to hear what names he's shouting). 

As far as I could see passport control is by no means short staffed...they often have many staff members milling about or standing chatting with each is just horribly and criminally mismanaged. 

If GOK is serious about development and improving service delivery, these are the first things that have to be drastically improved. They must design systems that allow/force the staff to be totally efficient. They must design systems that make best use of the resources we have. 

That way, we don't waste time getting passports/licenses/logbooks etc and instead proceed with our productive activities to earn our living which we then pay taxes on, which they then use to build us to 'developed status'. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Passport Control Nairobi

I recently applied for a replacement passport and was informed it would be ready after one week. I was given a receipt with a tracking number that I could use to track the progress of my application. The online facility for tracking wasn't working so I had to either phone or go to Nyayo House to check whether my passport was ready. 

5 weeks, numerous visits and phonecalls later, I called up and was finally told that the passport was ready and I should go and collect it.

The Nyayo House banking hall where passport collection is done, has two counters. Counter 13(labelled "Enquiries") deals with general enquiries and checking of the passport status and counter 14 labelled "Collection of Ready Passports" is where you go to get your ready passport.  

The process for collection is:

1. Present receipt at counter 13. 

2. If passport is ready, retrieve receipt with newly written passport number and proceed to Counter 14. If not go home and try again in "a week" or "two weeks"

3. At Counter 14, hand over receipt. 

4. Sit and wait for your name to be called out. (Big..nay..Mega screen TV provided for your entertainment..was tuned to Citizen TV on the day I was there..covering some KRA event)

5. Upon hearing your name..(over the din of all the people milling about in the hall), proceed back to counter 14 and collect your passport. 

On the day I went, Steps 1-4 took about one and a half hours. I was pretty much fed up by the time I heard my name. 

I proceeded to the counter to collect my passport and was met with the following (flippantly): "Hii yako haija teremka....angalia kesho". 

I was gobsmacked.

 Seriously??...Its not like I had just turned up out of the blue...I had actually phoned before I showed up and been told to come pick my passport. I had been through the process above (which by the way is the most retarded, convoluted system imaginable for the simple task of collecting a passport).....and a full non-productive morning later, I am just shooed away like beggar asking for 10 bob on the streets!

I was livid..stormed around complaining, asked to speak to officer-in-charge and was told he was in a meeting. So I left. 

I phoned up in the afternoon and spoke to said officer-in-charge (Mr Karoki) and tried to relay the point that it is just not right to make somebody waste a full morning of their day only to not have their passport ready....he didn't seem too bothered by that point but instead told me to go the next morning and collect my passport from him personally (how nice of him to do me such a huge favour right? Big shot personally tending to my needs.). We agreed on mid-morning. 

Next day turn up at 10am, he's not at his desk and there's a queue of about 6-7 people waiting for him. Wait in queue, he keeps coming and going, helps one or two people at a time then leaves. Eventually find myself at head of the queue at which point he has to rush of to do something. That was 11.30. At 12.30, his secretary tells me he's gone for lunch and that I should leave and come back at 2pm. I refuse. She mumbles to herself and leaves me alone. 10 minutes later, Mr Karoki comes back and personally goes to dispatch and gets me my 1pm. 

BTW, while I was waiting for Karoki for 3 hours, I overheard his secretary talking to one of her pals about how Alfred Mutua's office called cos he needed his passport replaced and she had to direct him to 2nd floor because "huko ndiyo wakubwa wanafanyiwa". 

I've left afew details out because I could be posting bout this til the new year but I hope the gist of my experience comes across. 

Will post my observations and opinions at a later time. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Safaricom Data Uh..oh

In my experience, the following is the normal usage experience with data networks in Kenya:

It starts out fine, works well for between 3-6 months then starts to slowly deteriorate until it reaches the point where I jump ship for the next package. 

This was the case with Flashcom and Celtel Edge. 

Having signed up with Safaricom 3 or so months ago and had 2 and abit months of trouble-free surfing, I have now noticed that little niggly problems starting to creep into the service. 

It has now taken to disconnecting itself from the network pretty regularly and failing to connect sometimes. 

So I'm this the beginning of the end?

Update: Just keeps getting worse..disconnections keep getting more just periodically keeps disappearing. I've never had great network reception but its always been largely stable. That reliability seems to have disappeared now. When are Yu kicking off again?