Cabinet secretaries (CSs) in the Kenya Kwanza government seem to be reading from different scripts.
Trade CS Moses Kuria gave farmers an ultimatum to sell their maize to the National Cereal Produce Board (NCPB) within 72 hours or the country will import maize. On the contrary, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi maintained that he is the custodian of our food reserves. He knows what is needed to feed the country.
Coming after the High Court stopped importation of GMO maize, awaiting determination of a suit filed by Kenyan Peasants league, a lobby representing small-scale farmers, Mr Linturi added his voice to the debate by saying he was not privy to any plans to import GMO maize. Reading from the same script with Linturi, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi said that the order to import maize should have been given by Linturi and asked Kuria to leave Linturi handle the maize issue.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for agricultural production. However, there should be clear-cut job descriptions for all CSs.
In human resource practice, job descriptions (JDs) help employees understand their responsibilities and duties. Moreover, JDs can be used to determine the performance of employees. CSs serve under the president, who is the appointing authority. Therefore the president can determine who is performing or not. He should thus find out if Linturi and Kuria were in the Cabinet meeting where the issue of maize was discussed and if so, who among the CSs is doing his job as per the expectations.
In the previous government, former Interior CS Fred Matiang'i was nicknamed super CS. It was alleged that he had taken over the roles of then deputy president, now the president. However much Matiang'i denied the allegations, it was clear that he was powerful and he had reduced the DP to a spectator, thereby heightening tension in the Cabinet.
Contradicting statements from senior officers serving the same government only serve to create speculation or bad blood in the Kenya Kwanza coalition government.
What might seem to be an issue of misplaced responsibilities can spiral into a bitter fight in government.
The president ought to move fast and quell any speculation that there are two camps in government, those for maize importation and those against. Additionally, to restore order and avoid any doubt, Linturi should give the nation statistics on maize reserves and if there is a shortage, what is needed to import.
Since maize is an ever-recurring scandal, Linturi should publicly outline the lawful requirements needed to import maize to clear doubts on who is speaking the truth. If Kuria’s idea to import maize was to bring the cost of food down, Linturi is on the right track by meeting with Council of Governors to ensure food security. Though coming after the damage has been done, the mechanism he is putting in place to ensure food security is what Kenyans want to hear and see actualised.
To read from the same script, CSs should understand their roles. CSs are the mouth-piece of a functional government.
-Rev Olando is the principal of Bishop Hannington Institute