Friday, September 17, 2010

New CRSP List released September 2010

There is a new CRSP list (Current Retail Selling Price list) that has been released by KRA.

It can be found here.

This list is the starting point for calculating duty payable for vehicle imports into Kenya. Use it in association with this Duty Valuation Template to calculate the approximate duty payable on vehicle imports. It is always advisable to still confirm duty payable on your proposed import from KRA either directly or through your clearing agent before you proceed to buy your vehicle.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Weighbridge Bust..

Was just watching an NTV story about a Kenya Anti Corruption Commission bust on some corrupt officers at the Mombasa weighbridge (video here). Same old fare..corrupt officers manning the weighbridge taking bribes to let overloaded trucks through.

Once again this got me thinking about something that has become a recurring theme in my thoughts. The individuals taking part in corrupt activities have been arrested and will be replaced by more individuals. And I am willing to bet whatever is in my wallet today (about two thousand bob I believe) that the exact same corruption will resume almost immediately. Why? The system is broken...or rather.. the system that is in place relies upon the diligence, honesty and integrity of the individuals operating it.

Now what we need at the weighbridge (and numerous other public institutions systems) is a system that does not rely on individuals' qualities. I am not talking about robots and fairies or something that would cost a ga-zillion shillings to create. It is something that is relatively simple to do in many cases.

Take the weighbridge: First, you could make the road such that all trucks (vehicles over a certain width) are funneled to the weighbridge. Next ensure that all vehicles that drive on this path actually go over the weighbridge. Then have a camera system that activates everytime a vehicle drives over the weighbridge. This system can take a photo(s) of the truck (including number plate). Have the system print out two copies of the truck photo as well as weight or whatever details are required. One copy can remain with the truck (and be prominently displayed) while the other stays for records. You can even incorporate a system that sends the truck details to an offsite control centre or to forward points for verification. You can make it such that the system is never off or logs its on/off times or even needs supervisor input to be turned off (in case some cheeky scallywag decides to just switch it off for certain trucks). You can make it mandatory for all trucks to display their weighbridge printouts.

Now with this system, you will still have the same people operating it, but you take the space for corruption away from them.

In other words perhaps I am a cynic but what we need to do in Kenya is not design systems for the best set of hard working devoutly religious and honest people, but design systems that will remain efficient even when operated by a bunch of bone lazy thieves.

This is not to say that everyone is a bone lazy thief..quite the opposite actually. But there are those amongst us who deviate from the norm and when designing systems that is who you design for.

When you design your home security system, you do not design it to repel your relatives who will hoot at the gate, ring the bell or gently knock on the door. You design it to repel the deviant gang of robbers who will try to break down your door with a rock. When you buy a swanky new car, you dont install an alarm system to keep your friends install one to keep the deviants out and to trace the car if the deviants do take it. What our systems design often seems to amount to is driving a swanky car to a rough part of town and leaving it with all doors and windows open with keys in the ignition and a shiny laptop in full view on the rear seat and hoping nothing happens. Hoping that the people who see the car are honest enough and decent enough not to steal the car or the laptop or both. Well we do not exist in that sort of utopia.

With this in mind, I think that we need to change focus in our "Fight Against Corruption". How much corruption stems from poor systems? I would say the majority of corruption we see would disappear with better systems. Perhaps we should marry the KACC and the Efficiency Monitoring Unit and really give the resultant organization power to go in to places, examine systems and processes, identify weak areas and recommend changes to ensure that systems do not rely on individuals qualities. Once we have redesigned systems, it becomes easier to see where the deviants are and root them out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

FPE: It's the System Stupid!

Currently, there is a scandal raging in Kenya regarding Free Primary Education (FPE) program funds. Basically dishonest Ministry of Education officials have used certain bureaucratic tools (fake expense reports, fake receipts, fake workshops etc) to misappropriate funds.

Since the scandal came to light, there has been a lot of back and forth (along party lines) about whether the minister and PS in the education ministry should resign. Two basic arguments spring to my mind when I think of this matter.

On the one hand, if neither the minister nor the PS stole funds, then their responsibility is to ensure that the perpetrators of the theft are caught and dealt with and the loopholes that were exploited are closed so that there is no chance of repeat occurrences again.

On the other hand, this occurred under their watch. They are the men in charge of the ministry. It is the minister and more-so the PS whose job it is to manage the ministry. As such, is it not management's job to ensure that the systems and procedures in place are designed such that theft etc do not take place? Having failed to design (or oversee the design of) a system that does so can be considered a failure and as such they should quit.

This internal debate (the second point more than the first) has led me to feel like this issue (and many others) is being approached and dealt with all wrong.

Quite apart from the petty politicizing, playing to the gallery and grandstanding that we have been seeing; rather than media jumping on a high horse and MoE Minister & PS in turn being defensive and saying nothing more meaningful than "I will not resign", perhaps we need to be talking about systems, processes and procedures in place.

Assuming they personally did not steal, I would like to hear from the PS/Minister exactly what the system for dealing with funds is in his ministry as well as what processes and procedures are followed in the procurement process. I want to know how, where and why the system failed. I want to know what action he is taking or has taken to ensure that these loopholes are closed. If the PS and/or Minister have not got comprehensive answers to these questions, then I would like to see him/them fired. Simple.

My simple belief is this, we live and die by the system. A good system will be efficient but will also eliminate leeway for there to be system failures caused by individuals. Too often in Kenya, we get stuck pointing fingers at individuals but fail to realize that it is poorly designed & implemented systems that let us down the most. We do not live in a utopia where everyone is 100% honest. As such we must create systems that force catching any dishonesty early and by ensuring that those responsible are brought to book quickly.

We need an appointment and performance appraisal system in place that picks the right candidates for jobs and accurately rates their performance in the management of our institutions. We need a system that does not in any way indulge non performance. From top to bottom.

Can we please start debating how to make this happen instead of forever focusing on petty politics and individuals?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Motor Vehicle Transfer - KRA

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you regarding the process in place for motor vehicle transfers. I undertook to process a transfer and the process was as follows:

1. Queue at counter 21 (or 22) to have application approved (This involves an officer leafing through documents provided to ensure they are in order then writing amount to be paid if they are so)

2. Queue at counter 23 to get an e-slip

3. Go to petrol station outside Times Towers to make 3 photocopies of the e-Slip

4. Go to NBK on 5th Floor of Times Towers to pay the transfer fee

5. Return to Petrol station to make a photocopy of the payment slip

6. Take documents back to counter 23 (no need to queue this time) and leave them with officer.

On Tuesday 19th January, the above process took me about one and a half hours to complete. I noted the following:

This is a 6- step process involving 3 different queues that could (and should!) be completed in one step, at one service window in 5 minutes. Due to the convoluted process in place, what should take 10, maybe 20 minutes (including queuing time) is stretched to take over an hour.

I would suggest any or all of the following measures be implemented to speed up the process to make it more efficient:

1. The approval and e-slip printing combined to one single step.

2. The e-slip is currently printed in landscape orientation in the middle of an A4 sheet. It probably takes up about half the paper in total. I suggest printing the same in portrait orientation and to reduce the size of the slip so that the same thing can be printed 3 (or 4) different times on the same page. This will allow customers to simply tear the different copies rather than have to leave the building altogether to get photocopies.

3. Payments can be done at the same time and place the documents are approved and e-slip printed. The current process turns the taxpayer into a defacto cash handler for KRA which is not efficient from a customer stand point.

If these steps were implemented, the process of lodging transfer documents would be much faster and easier for the taxpayer.

By creating efficient processes, KRA allows taxpayers to spend less time in queues and on fools errands and more time being productive. More productivity translates to higher earnings which in turn translates to more taxes being paid.

I thank you for your time.

Kind Regards

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is This Progress?

Today, I made the bold decision to handle a motor vehicle transfer personally. I tend to be the type of person who tries to do everything personally at least once, just to have the experience of doing so and to know what goes on. I needed to be in town quite early so I figured that rather than send a messesnger, I would do this one myself.

The process is thus:

- Go to Counter 21 (or 22..don't remember which one) to get the application approved and be informed how much it will cost.

- Go to Counter 20 to get an e-slip printed out (this states the name of the seller, name and PIN details of new owner and the fee payable.

- Go get 3 copies of the e-slip. This is done at the NOCK petrol station beside Times Towers.

- Go to either the National Bank of Kenya (NBK) branch at Harambee Avenue or sub branch on 5th Floor of Times Towers to pay the fee. (I chose the latter)

- Make a copy of the deposit slip from NBK (at the NOCK petrol station).

- Drop the application back at Counter 20 Times Towers banking hall on the ground floor. (Thankfully you do not have to queue for this step, you just walk up to the counter and drop the application off).

In my opinion, a country (government) that has such a long, cumbersome process for such a simple transaction is just not serious about becoming developed.

That will strike some as an extreme statement but I think that the first step towards creating an enabling environment is to make the simple things....simple. Then tackle the complicated things. Times Towers banking hall (and numerous other government offices) are places where the simplest is turned into the most cumbersome and complicated.

Streamlining this process would require little to no money, just a real commitment to ensure that citizens get the best possible service. The presence of such cumbersome processes in 2010 points to a lack of this real commitment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Overtake

Once again, more thoughts from my journey to/from Mombasa. This time: Overtaking.

The overtake maneuver on a single lane highway entails: Using the oncoming traffic lane to get past a slower moving vehicle(s) as quickly as possible, and in a manner that does not disrupt other road users (oncoming traffic & traffic going in your direction).

Now for most vehicles I have driven, the best way to do this (not scientific so please correct me where I am wrong) is to leave reasonable space between yourself and the slow moving vehicle you intend to overtake so as to ensure you can see round the vehicle(s), both to see if there is any traffic ahead of you (going in the same direction) or any traffic coming from the opposite direction (this includes oncoming traffic that is overtaking); then time your acceleration so that you carry enough momentum into the maneuver to overtake in the shortest possible time/distance. (You know your car, you know what pick it has, you know what speed it can manage etc etc..all these factors are in play every single time you overtake)

If there is oncoming traffic, leaving reasonable space between yourself and the vehicle you intend to overtake will allow you to see exactly how many vehicles are approaching and at what approximate speed (depending on the road layout obviously). In cases where the road gently curves left, it also allows you to look round the slow moving vehicle 'on the inside' to see what the situation is like ahead. In short, before you overtake, you must have a very clear picture of what lies ahead on both lanes within the approximate distance you will need to execute your overtake maneuver.

You must also have an idea of what vehicles are behind you and what their driving mannerisms might be (because you have been checking your rear view mirror and wing mirrors frequently..they aren't just for checking if your lips have spit lines!)

If there is a queue of vehicles ahead of you, courtesy dictates that you overtake the slowest moving vehicle in order..i.e. first goes first, last goes last, then overtake the next slowest and so on. If you happen to be driving a twin turbo V8 (i.e. if you are the fastest vehicle), don't rush out, let those ahead go first, you'll still catch and pass them later. Only pull out ahead of them if you see a space you can exploit that they may be unable to..but keep in mind that one of your principle aims is not to disrupt traffic in any way. If oncoming traffic has to even dab their brakes because of you, you have have executed your maneuver poorly.

The most common mistake that I see made is people who drive too close to the vehicle they intend to overtake; often a bus, lorry or even a smaller car with tinted windows (which limits line of sight through the car) then keep 'poking out' to 'peep' and see what oncoming traffic looks like. Doing this means that you not only do not develop a clear mental picture of the whole situation before you overtake, but you also do not leave yourself enough room to accelerate into the maneuver. Hence when you do pull out, it will take longer to overtake than it would have otherwise...leaving you in a more dangerous position than you need to be in. Too many times I saw people pull out, start accelerating late and find their vehicle did not have the momentum to make it past in time...and end up aborting their maneuver, wasting time and slowing traffic in cases when had they have done it right, 2 or even 3 cars could have comfortable overtaken the slow vehicle(s).

There are also those who overtake at blind corners or hills but these are just irresponsible people. I cringe anytime I see a fellow with his car full of family doing this. It is toying with life and you should never ever do it.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not scientific, these are just some of the methods I use as I believe they are they are the safest way to overtake (and quickest too!)..irrespective of how big or powerful your engine might be.

Let me know your thoughts and methods but whatever you do, always drive safe and responsibly and do not take unnecessary chances. The one time chance goes against you may be the last time it goes against you.

Traffic Mayhem on 5th January

Yesterday, I needed to go to Westlands then to Woodley and back to Westlands. Traffic around the city was heavily congested..very much so in the Westlands area.

I believe two key factors contributed to this:

1. The matatu strike on Monday and Tuesday meant that virtually everyone who owned a car brought it out and used it for just about every trip they needed to make. (People often drive to work or to a parking lot then use public transport to commute into/out of town & run small errands)

2. The new years holiday fell on a weekend. As usual schools were opening on the first Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday of the year. Of significance this year is the fact that Monday 4th was also the first working day of the year. If the 1st is a Monday for example, schools would open on the 8th. Parents would have 2nd - 5th to do school shopping. This year, everyone rushed to do their school shopping on 4th and 5th January.

These two factors along with Kenyans' typical selfish driving habits combined to make traffic really bad all day on Monday and on Tuesday mid-morning and afternoon. However, the worst was to come on Tuesday evening.

HE the President returned to Nairobi from his annual holiday in Mombasa. Therefore, traffic had to be stopped to accommodate his motorcade. Now on the best of traffic days, the presidential motorcade causes a big disruption. On Tuesday evening, with traffic already very bad, the motorcade caused gridlock just about everywhere. It took me two and a half hours to get from The DO office on Waiyaki Way (by Safaricom Building) to Sarit Centre, a distance of maybe 2-3 kilometres.

Is this really acceptable? The president was flying into JKIA, the authorities knew what the traffic situation was. Would it have been so difficult to get a helicopter to ferry him from the airport to State House? Should this not now become standard procedure whenever possible for ferrying the president around town?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mombasa - Nairobi Highway

Happy New Year!

Drove down to Mombasa for new years. The new highway is almost all done now. There are still a couple of short diversions around Athi River but other than that, it is all new road.

Worryingly, on the drive back, I noticed that the stretches that were re-built first (between Mariakani and Voi) have started showing signs of developing potholes. There are actually two or three potholes already and certain stretches now have the tell-tale undulations (caused by lorries) that are a sure sign potholes are not far behind.


By the time the Nairobi - Machakos stretch is fully done, the Mombasa - Voi stretch will need repairs. And as we all know, the quality of patchwork repairs done on our roads forever compromises the quality of the roads.

I am sure the road cannot be more than 5-6 years old. Is this the lifespan of our roads? Was the road built to sufficiently high standard to accommodate the traffic it carries?

I do not think it is sustainable to invest so heavily in roads that start falling apart in less than 10 years. Real concerted effort needs to be placed in ensuring no overloaded vehicles use our roads and roads are built to last for 10 even 20 or 30 years.