Saturday, April 18, 2009

Name Game

I need to start keeping note of names of all the customer facing staff I deal with. I am forever getting sent on wild goose chases due to wrong information but I rarely know the names of the people who bend me over. This must change now! I will know the names of all the incompetent morons who feed me wrong information and I will henceforth be putting them on blast in any and every way I can. I am sick to death of this sh**!!!

Emirates/KCB Offer - Mission Impossible

On Wednesday 25th March I received an email from Loise Mucheru of KCB. It read as follows: (verbatim)

Use your KCB VISA / MasterCard and enjoy a 10% discount on every purchase of Emirate’s ticket: to London, Dubai, Istanbul, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Seoul. This special offer is on all bookings made before 19th June 2009. Use your KCB card, the preferred card.

This was great news for me as I had a planned trip coming up and I just so happen to also have a KCB Mastercard.

On Tuesday 14th April, I started the booking process for the trip. I went online, checked fares etc then made my way to the Emirates offices at Anniversary Towers to book my ticket. My intention was to reserve the ticket and pay for it towards the end of the week. (I tend to prefer making reservations at the ticket offices because up until recently online reservations tended to cancel themselves after a day or so. I also prefer dealing with a real life person).

Anyway, the lady checks prices and the quote for my journey came up about 5 or 10% more expensive than the quote I had found on the airline website. This I was told was because there is a special online booking discount. I was advised to go book my itinerary online and choose the 'Pick ticket from local office' option, then return to the office when I was ready to make my payment. I mentioned to the lady (twice!) that I intended to pay using a KCB credit card to take advantage of the 10% discount offer. I asked her whether this only applied to online bookings or to ALL bookings. She informed me both times that it applies to all bookings. She assured me that it would be no problem whatsoever to pay at their offices and the discount would be applied irrespective.

I went online and did as instructed. Booked itinerary, seats, meal preferences and picked the 'collect tickets' option and was given until Sunday 19th April to pay for the ticket.

The only hurdle that paying by KCB credit card presented for me was that my credit limit would not cover the cost of the ticket. So on Friday (17th April), head off to my KCB branch (VM) and ask 3 different people whether if I paid more than was due on my credit card (i.e. paid the card into debit), I would have any problems. They said all said no. After I had deposited the money, I called KCB card centre to notify them of the payment I had made and again clarified that it was all good regarding payments. No hint of any trouble from that front either. No mention of any transaction limit.

So today I head over to Emirates offices to pay for my ticket and collect it. Guess what?..."THE 10% DISCOUNT ONLY APPLIES TO ONLINE PAYMENTS". I am advised to go online, make a fresh booking and then cancel the old booking afterwards. I go off and try to do so and my transaction keeps getting declined.

So I call KCB card centre and get told that my card has an online transaction limit...and that any request to increase that limit must be made in writing..on Monday!! Reason being no managers are present over the weekend who can authorise such a transaction. The only people working on Saturdays are the authorisations team who ironically cannot authorise my purchase.

At this moment (8.30pm, Saturday 18th) I have made about 10 phone calls to KCB Card Centre authorisations, sent 3 emails AND hand delivered a letter to them in Sarit to raise the limit and let me complete my transaction. I have to say they have been very helpful and have promised to try get someone in tomorrow morning to sort me out.

The people I blame for this..other than myself for leaving the whole thing so late (not really my fault ticket booking was contingent on a payment I was waiting for that I only received on Friday) are Emirates ticketing and reservations staff.

They have screwed me good and proper by giving me totally wrong information again and again.

I will eventually get the problem sorted out and buy my discounted ticket and make my trip (maybe a day or two late)..but it has really been a big inconvenience and a very aggravating experience for me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How to get Kenya's Obama Elected (A layman's view)

In this post, I touted Edwin Macharia as Kenya's own potential Obama. It got me thinking...Assuming he was interested in gunning for the top job in 2012. How could he (or any other new face with presidential ambitions for that matter) go about it?

(Disclaimer: This is purely from a layman point of view..more experienced political minds can feel free to point out any deficiencies or better yet add on their ideas):

In no particular order:

1. Differentiation: He should totally differentiate himself from the current system. He should go out of his way to portray himself as coming from outside the system. He should be aiming to form his own political party and not join any of the existing ones. He should market his party as the youth vehicle. 

2. Build a Good, Diverse Team: He should build a team of intelligent, ambitious, passionate people, preferably young (but not necessarily so). Countrywide. If possible as many of these people should also be fresh faces. He should recruit people who will really believe in him and his message and vision for the country. Ofcourse in a democracy you cant necessarily pick who will follow you but that is why it would be important to pick the right people to begin with. 

3. Craft a strong issue based, national message, Sell the message: He has a good grasp of issues, policies and the effect they have on the populace at large. Together with his team, he can refine his ideas and craft them into something marketable to Kenyans from all corners of the country. Firstly he has to sell the vision to his team, make sure they are really on board, really believe in the message, then send out the team to start spreading that message. Each region will have the message tailor-made to appeal to them but by and large it will be a national message. Part of the remit of this will include educating the populace about what the effects of certain things are (bad policies, vote selling etc). 

4. Go grassroots, stay on message: Have his team out there selling him at the grassroots. Make periodic visits to all areas to meet and connect with the people.

5. Use technology: To keep in contact with the team, to keep his finger on the pulse, to help get his message out there and for fundraising. 

6. Start now....but start under the radar: Start building his team now. Start finding like minded individuals across the country, approach them, sell them his vision, get them onboard. Get them really believing and then get them out there slowly recruiting more like minded folks. The next year or two should be spent quietly building his team and network (people and funds). By mid 2011 or so, he should aim to have a strong national network and a good fundraising mechanism, ready for the beginning of active campaigning.    

Some points are repetitive and I'm sure there's some things I've missed out but that's what I could think of off the top of my head. 

In my view, the current environment in Kenya presents a good opportunity for a new face who can get out there and galvanise Kenyans (specifically the youth) around them. It's still early but if we have such an individual he/she needs to start planning and working towards it now. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kenya's own Barack Obama?...

This is Edwin Macharia (picture from In 2007, he ran for the Kieni seat against Chris Murungaru and eventual winner Nemesyus Warugongo.

I have seen this guy on the 'Louis Otieno Live' tv show a few times, most recently last night and he never fails to impress me.

He's very smart, knowledgeable, articulate and seems to have clear ideas about how this country needs to move forward.

Mutahi Ngunyi speaking on Capital Talk last night made a sad yet valid point in reference to why we wind up with such bad political leaders. He said that "the problem we have in this country is that the men and women of good intention have no passion but those of bad intention have lots of passion".

Hearing Edwin speak, I would say that this is a young man of good intention who has plenty of passion.

I am glad losing in Kieni did not make him give up on politics because this is the sort of leader I think we really need to have in this country.

Do look out for this guy because I genuinely think that he could be Kenya's own Barack Obama.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Publicize ALL Public Works Contracts

Every time I drive around and see a newly repaired road that has all but disintegrated at the first sign of precipitation, I find myself wondering what the design criteria for the road was, who was in charge of inspecting the construction works to ensure the road is built/repaired to the required standard, what was paid for the road building/repair etc.

I personally think that road building is the biggest scam in Kenya and has been for some time. I find the standard of road building poor. Roads often fall apart within one or two years. The standard of road repair is also abyssmal meaning that once the road gets potholes after its one year of service, the repairs that are done leave a terribly rutted and uneven surface. Roads are supposed to be smooth. How many of our roads fit that description?

I think that one measure that could be instituted to increase accountability with roads (and other public works projects) is to publicize the roads building and maintenance contracts. By publicize, I don't mean have a board hidden behind a tree with microscopic writing on it placed at some random location miles from where the actual work is to take place, I mean have full details of the contracts either put out in the press or better yet on the Ministries websites. The following could be included:

  • Cost of the project
  • Full Design Criteria
  • Time to Completion
  • Company undertaking Project
  • Reasons for company being awarded tender
  • Inspection methodology
  • Name of official incharge of inspection for the particular project
  • Penalties for failure to meet deadlines both for contactor as well as GoK
  • etc etc

For example, we the public should be made aware that Thika Road is being built by Con Struct Ltd at a cost of 2 billion over a timespan of 2 years with a handover date of xx/xx/20xx. We should be made aware that the contract includes building drainage and culverts and a layer of tarmac at least 5 inches thick with the road expected to have a lifespan of at least 20 years and that I.N Spector is in charge of inspecting the project to ensure that its being built to the correct spec, will conduct monthly inspections and for every month behind schedule the project is the contractor loses 10 million..etc etc....if the public is aware what our tax shillings are being used for, it would further incentivize GoK and contractors to ensure we get value for money. 

I think that taking this approach may help towards ensuring that we finally start getting value for our tax money where public works projects are concerned.

Edit: The following two key points from Bankelele would also go some great way to adding to accountability:
- publish the names of all company directors' that are given government contracts. If a company does not perform it gets blacklisted, along with its directors
- reverse the Ndegwa commission rules and re-instate ban civil servants from engaging in private business