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President William Ruto locks in Uhuru Kenyatta CSs to duty but with less powers

President WIlliam Ruto. [DPPS]

The new administration has locked in exiting Cabinet Secretaries, slamming brakes on their foreign excursions, committing them to official duty while at the same time taming their powers.

In the new directive issued by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, CSs and Principal Secretaries who had other plans were re-committed back to public service until their replacements are announced.

Many, especially those who had taken active political roles, were missing from duty and left PSs to run their ministries.

“It is, therefore, reiterated that the tenure of Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries currently in office will only lapse on appointment and swearing-in of successor Cabinet Secretary or Principal secretary,” said Dr Kinyua.

He said the ministerial actions during the transition are limited to general administration and stewardship over the respective dockets.

The CSs are now prohibited from implementing new policy in their ministries, cannot travel outside the country on official duty unless sanctioned by President William Ruto, and cannot effect payments exceeding Sh50 million without prior approval and verification of the National Treasury.

They are also unable to appoint members of board of management of State corporations or State agencies.

Curtains fell on the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta who had occupied State House for 10 years on September 13 when his erstwhile deputy Ruto took the oath of office to become the fifth president.

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i wrote a farewell letter to senior security officers days before Ruto’s inauguration. Dr Matiang’i thanked his colleagues for their sacrifices in the line of duty, which he said has left him with “indelible memories of valour.”

“I exit Harambee House richer from the shared knowledge of public institutions and a valuable contact base of men and women whose wealth of training and exposure has given me a renewed sense of purpose,” he said.

Dr Matiang’i has steered off the new administration, skipping Ruto's inauguration attended by his PS Karanja Kibicho. He has not been seen in public or spotted at his Harambee House office from where he oversaw the country's security docket for the last six years. 

Yesterday, an aide who responded to the CS's mobile line said he has not completely vacated office.

"Let me not comment for now on whether he is operating from his Harambee House office. We are waiting for the new administration to be set up. He is still available for consultation," said the aide not authorised to speak to the Press.

His agriculture counterpart Peter Munya, who was active in Azimio rallies is missing in action. Just like Matiang'i, Munya supported Azimio leader Raila Odinga's presidential bid.

Joe Mucheru of ICT has equally been missing from the limelight. Environment's Keriako Tobiko has also quietly exited from the scene.

For Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, however, its business as usual at Afya House. The CS has been issuing and signing daily reports on Covid-19 situation. Yesterday, on top of Covid report, Kagwe issued a statement on Ebola, announcing his continued presence at the ministry.

On Tuesday, Lands CS Farida Karoney was in her office, working. Karoney hosted Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja at her Ardhi House office to discuss the Nairobi titling programme.

Similarly, Transport CS James Macharia met with Ruto a fortnight ago to keep him abreast on projects in the pipeline. 

Like Macharia and Kagwe, Sports CS Amina Mohammed is still engaged in her long-term row with Football Federation of Kenya (FKF) president Nick Mwenda. Ms Mohammed issued a statement on Tuesday criticising Mwendwa’s decision to access the FKF offices at Kasarani, Nairobi, after being locked out since November 2021 over corruption-related charges.

Others still active as of last week are Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), George Magoha (Education) and Simon Chelugui (Labour). Ms Omamo was active during President Ruto’s inauguration receiving international guests.

Just like Magoha, Tourism CS Najib Balala subtly hinted that he would be happy to serve in President Ruto’s Cabinet if given a chance.

"I am happy and humbled and I thank President Kenyatta for giving me the chance to serve the nation. I welcome President Ruto and I am ready to serve in his government whenever it’s necessary,” Balala said.

With Kinyua's directive which is copied to Ruto's aide Davis Chirchir, the CS's are now expected to stay put in their offices until their replacements are done. The President is expected back from New York but it's hardly possible to have their replacement in the next few weeks even if they are announced.

Parliament will need to convene, form committees and vet them before they can formally take office. Earlier this week, Public Service Commission extended the application period for persons interested in replacing the current crop of PSs.

Yesterday, the PSC also put up another public statement seeking public views on the president's proposal to regularise the position of Cabinet Administrative Secretaries.  

It is therefore presumed that the CS's and their PS's will hold on for a while until the government is fully formed.