Picking 50 CASs adds burden to the taxpayers

President William Ruto looks on during the National Solemn Assembly at the Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on February 14, 2023. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

President William Ruto’s nomination of 50 individuals for the position of Chief Administrative Secretary has been criticised loudly by many, including those in his base, and for a good reason.

During the push for the infamous Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), then DP Ruto led an onslaught against then President Uhuru Kenyatta and his “Handshake” partner Raila Odinga for prioritising sharing of government jobs among politicians at the expense of economic revival to benefit the majority poor, the so-called hustlers.

The BBI proposals sought among others, creation of the position of Prime Minister and two deputies, which the proponents saw as a solution to the first past the post system, which had been cited as cause of post-election upheavals experienced in the past.

However, Ruto campaigned on the platform that Uhuru and Raila were seeking to create positions for the elite at the expense of “hustlers” who were struggling under a high cost of living, youth unemployment and high taxation. While this stand won him many supporters, his actions since he took over power have been to the contrary.

First, President Ruto reintroduced the premier position, disguised as Prime Cabinet Secretary. He has also proposed creation of the position of Leader of the Official Opposition, which was also a proposal under BBI to ensure the person who garners the second highest majority votes in an election is accommodated.

What has, however, riled many Kenyans is the President’s backtracking on his promise of a lean government. While the Constitution limits the number of Cabinet Secretaries to 22, Ruto took advantage of the lacuna placed on the number of Principal Secretaries, and increased the number from 26 under Uhuru to 49 through creation of more State departments.

He has also reintroduced the position of Chief Administrative Secretary, who is essentially an assistant minister (which was abolished under the 2010 Constitution), and on Thursday nominated 50 individuals for approval by the National Assembly.

Those in support of the move, including Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, argue that they need as many hands on deck to enable the Kenya Kwanza administration deliver on its campaign promises such as lowering the high cost of living and looking for foreign markets for Kenyan goods.

If this were true, Kenyans would not mind the extra burden they would shoulder in footing their pay and other emoluments. However, this would hold only if the President prioritised meritocracy rather than reward political cronies with no regard to his pre-election pledges, including gender representation. 

The more than Sh430 million that the new CASs will draw from the Exchequer annually, will add to the bloated public wage bill. It will be hard to convince Kenyans, especially the suffering hustlers, that the expense will help improve their lot.