Tharaka Nithi is a relatively small county having been carved out of the larger Meru district with the promulgation of the constitution 2010. When Kenya attained independence way back in 1963 Meru was one of the six districts in the Eastern province. During Moi era, Meru was subdivided into three districts namely Nyambene, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
Devolution gave birth to Tharaka Nithi County consisting of four sub-counties. Today the county consists of five sub-counties in three constituencies. The county has an area of 2609 km² and as of the 2019 census a population of 393,177 people.
Little has attracted the national attention to the county save for political reasons where it has prominently featured as the county that tilts the national tally in favour of the Mt. Kenya region. More recently Chuka University has been on the limelight with the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Erastus Njoka receiving accolade for steering it into the realm of academic circles.
But quite rapidly and surely, Mohammed Abdi has steered the little known Tharaka Nithi Huduma Centre into the top position countrywide in service delivery. Abdi is the manager of this facility located next to the ultra-modern Chuka High Court in Chuka town. The high court was commissioned by the Chief Justice in December last year but I doubt whether David Maraga ever realized that he was sitting right next to the best Huduma Centre in the republic.
For those conversant with the services offered at Huduma Centres their colors and logo paintings on the walls will attract attention but for those who don’t it might pass just as any other building. But this is the Huduma Centre that together with it’s Manager, Mohamed Abdi, was ranked the best in service delivery countrywide for the year 2019.
The Tharaka Nithi Huduma Centre through the patronage of Abdi has been performing well since inception in the year 2016 being ranked number six in the first year. It rose through the ranks to last year’s performance but in no other previous performance were both the centre and the manager declared the best performing countrywide.
But what is the secret behind the exemplary performance by this Kenyan from North-Eastern Region that is associated with insecurity and indeed where the last performing Huduma Centre is located?
As the Swahili proverb goes ‘Ukiona vyaelea vimeundwa’ which loosely translates into sea vessels do not just float but are actually made, there must be underlying factors behind the success. I was keen to hear the clandestine recipe that translates into the magical cuisine served at this barely four year old Huduma Centre that has overcome the odds to perform better than more advantaged ones including the GPO Nairobi.
According to Abdi there are numerous ingredients for the recipe but the key to the delicacy is effecting a divorce between the Huduma Centre staff and their back-office schedules.
“You have to make it clear to the staff that once deployed at the Huduma Centre they no longer follow the working schedules of their mother departments. They cannot haphazardly break for any festive season simply because their back-office colleagues have closed nor can they break for lunch or tea and leave the counter unattended,” Mr. Abdi elaborated.
He took this opportunity to inform heads of department who have withdrawn their services from the Huduma Centre that the withdrawal should be procedural and until he receives written communication from them, he considers the staff to have absconded duty.
Speaking during the first 2020 County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) held at the Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner’s boardroom, the Huduma Centre Manager said punctuality cannot be compromised if good service delivery is to be achieved.
“At no given time should the clients arrive before the officer expected to serve them. If we talk of 8.00 o’clock, the counter should be open and the officer ready to serve the clients at exactly 8.00. Not only physically there but ready to serve customers,” stressed Abdi.
He further disclosed that the maintenance of the facility to create a conducive environment for customers is essential and Huduma Centre staff ought to be dressed in the official uniform which makes them easily identifiable by members of the public even outside the facility.
At this juncture, Abdi took issue with an officer from the National Land Commission who had showed up in the Huduma Centre uniform during a County Development Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) monitoring and evaluation site visit long after having been relocated from the facility.
“People were speaking in monotones asking whether there are now two Huduma Centre managers in Tharaka Nithi, How do you dress in the uniform of a government institution that you are no longer serving?” he exclaimed adding that he will soon escalate the issue to the regional level.
He further revealed to the applause of the CDICC members that there is no backlog in the issuance of Birth Certificates at the Tharaka Nithi Registration of Persons offices thanks to good collaboration between their Huduma Centre counter and their back-office.
The manager invited heads of departments to pay him a courtesy call while observing how their officers deployed at the facility operate with the sole objective of delivering service beyond the expectations of the customers.
Over punctuality I have to agree with him because close to the December festive season when the area occupied by most government offices around the Huduma Centre appeared like a ghost place. Abdi could still be seen around the facility that was open even on 24th of December and the 2nd of January 2020 besides all the working days in between.
I too remember a day we were going for a CDICC second site visit at Kanthanje that had been abruptly necessitated by gaping holes between a previous site report and the National Irrigation Board report over the state of the controversial water project Abdi was the major player.
The North Eastern Region CDICCs Secretary, James Ikimati, who was holding briefs for his Tharaka Nithi colleague, Ms. Loice Shuma, commented that it was only Abdi who he found at the agreed rendezvous on time.
The date and the venue had hurriedly agreed and communication done through text messages due to time factor but Abdi arrived before the organizer and ensured the Huduma Centre is ready and working before proceeding to the infamous Kanthanje water pan that has consumed Sh.19 million of taxpayers money without giving any value to the expected beneficiaries.
Due to his position as the longest serving officer in Chuka town, Abdi is consulted for advice by many senior project implementers, including the Chuka University Vice Chancellor Prof. Erastus Njoka whose success story need not be overemphasized. I once heard him joke that he is like a counselor in Chuka.
This could also be the reason why the Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner, Ms. Beverly Opwora delegates the chairing of some meetings to Abdi whenever her multitasking role as the representative of the President in Tharaka Nithi County becomes overwhelming.
Abdi has also been in the forefront in urging men join their female counterparts in seeking early screening for cancer to enable early detection and treatment that is likely to change the possible outcome.
Speaking during the apex of the Huduma Centre Customer Service Week in October last year, Abdi supported many participants who called for early screening of the deadly disease that has robbed the country several prominent leaders.
“It’s the high time that men realize that cancer does not discriminate on gender basis and men too have not only contracted the disease but many have already died from the disease. It is important to note that with early detection cancer is a curable ailment,” said Abdi.
Many cancer survivors in Tharaka Nithi county disclosed that the lengthy cancer treatment is not a bed of roses with many of them narrating the traumatic experience of relatives, friends and also the society forsaking them when they we diagnosed with the deadly illness.
By David Mutwiri