Arguably, the President was probably wrong when he said during a TV interview on the one year anniversary of his government, that their biggest achievement was free maternal health care.
A better answer was probably their introduction of Huduma (swahili for service) Centres in the country. Huduma Centres, which are at two post offices in downtown Nairobi, are offices where citizens can access a whole range of government services that they would previously have to visit a dozen different offices over several days to complete.
Services offered in one room include business registration, driving license renewals, national ID’s, birth certificates, city parking permits, land rate payments, querying NSSF & NHIF, and they even act dropping points of KRA (taxpayer) forms.
They are popular and the parking at one had several red-plate (diplomatic) cars outside as vehicle log book collection is one of the services offered.
One Huduma Centre had a few important things that made the visit to this government office pleasant including:
- A ticketing system and customer service person at the door to get you to the right queue quickly.
- In case you need more cash, there is a mobile money agent (both M-Pesa & Airtel)
- A cyber cafe inside in case you need to print documents or make an (inevitable) photocopy.
- Free parking for customers.
Huduma Centres are pleasant, and airy, and served by smiling staff that make you want to get more and more essential services completed when there.
Going forward, will this good feeling last? Will departments continue
stop supporting services here? Will parking remain free? Will the staff get tired of smiling as crowds grow? Will the quality of service deteriorate over time? Can it scale to other towns?
That remains to be seen but for now Huduma Centres which enable citizens to access several individual and business services in one time-saving office is the most important government achievement to date.
The Huduma Kenya website notes that additional centerswill be opened in each of the 47 counties within the next 24 months. And as the government grapples on how to revive post offices that it owns in prime locations around the country (in an an electronic age with fewer letters), Huduma Centres may be the answer.