Before former Prime Minister Raila Odinga thrust himself into politics, he had already earned himself a very lucrative government job which saw him manage one of the country’s top public offices as he narrated in his autobiography-The Flame of Freedom.
According to the ODM leader, in May 1975, he was appointed the standards manager at the newly formed Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
The Standards Act was passed by Parliament in 1973 and a board of directors was then set up in 1974, with Kipng’eno arap Ng’eny as chairman.
However, Odinga was among the people who worked towards the formation of KEBS in 1973. This was after he had just set up his gas cylinder company, Spectre in the early 1970s.
The African Union envoy realised that the expert whom they used to test the quality of up to 1,000 cylinders at Specter, John Edon, had to be brought all the way from Mombasa.
“We would have to meet the cost of his airfare and of his hotel accommodation and local transport. After he returned to Mombasa, we would have to wait up to a couple of weeks to hear from him and get the certificates back,” Odinga narrated.
Odinga approached then Trade and Industry Minister James Osogo and convinced him to initiate a process of writing a law, Kenya Bureau of Standards Act that was passed in 1973.
However, the agency’s commencement stalled as people refused to apply for jobs over low salaries offered. This forced KEBS to readvertise. Odinga went on to apply after he saw that the formation of KEBS would drag on longer than necessary.
The former premier, who was among the pioneers of the agency, which would ensure that goods flocking into the country were of good quality, drafted standards that would govern all the work that the bureau would do.
“We produced this as a joint effort on the basis of what we had learned in London. It covered how standards should be written, what they should contain, the constitution of committees, how stakeholders should be selected, what problems standards were meant to solve, how useful standards would be to industry, how to identify the actual content of standards and the critical selections of any standard devised,” Odinga recalled.
Among the bureau’s first assignments was creating standards for the manufacture of LPG cylinders.
He was later elevated to deputy director in 1978. He left a few years later after KEBS became successful. Odinga aided Tanzania in establishing its own similar institution.
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