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State House woes over high staff turnover

By | May 8th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Standard Reporter

Endless re-organisation and behind the scenes manouvres continue to dog President Kibaki’s State House, with top officials being shown the door every so often.

The quiet exit of acting State House Comptroller Michael Ndung’u Kamau two weeks ago has added to the list of not less than eleven top officials shown the door unceremoniously since Kibaki took over in 2002.

A record high turnover at the President’s official premises is causing anxiety among staff, with some not sure of their jobs.

Mr Kamau is said to have been sent packing after yet another round of intrigues, joining a long list of top officials thrown out or redeployed not for incompetence, but as pawns in a web of infighting.

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Sources say the goings on at State House could

result in more key officials being relieved of their jobs or re-deployed.

But in a statement last evening, Presidential Press Service (PPS) Director Isaiah Kabira said he was not aware of "any turn over".

On the position of Comptroller, he said it had not been filled. "I can only inform you we are in the process of filling the Comptroller’s position," he said.

The Comptroller’s office and the yet to be filled Personal Assistant’s job (formerly held by Mr Alfred Getonga) remain the hottest seats of the Kibaki administration.

Besides talk of a close friend of the President becoming the next Comptroller, sources say there is a move by some powerful players to push for the appointment of someone who is not beholden to his past relationship with the President — whether social, business or political.

Key advisor

Early last month, President Kibaki split the post of State House Comptroller and appointed Prof Nick Wanjohi the Private Secretary. Wanjohi is a former Vice-Chancellor at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, a member of the President’s inner circle and a key advisor.

He has been working at State House since the end of his term as Vice-Chancellor in March, last year.

Last month, a PPS statement explained that the Comptroller would be responsible for finance and administration, while the private secretary would handle the President’s diary and official programmes.

The Standard has established that barely a month after Wanjohi, Kibaki’s key ally, took over the Private Secretary’s job, Kamau — who was acting Comptroller — was asked to vacate the office and has since been re-deployed.

Shaky ground

However, recently PPS clarified that Kamau had not been appointed State House Comptroller. The removal of Kamau leaves the important office on shaky ground yet again.

The Comptroller is the accounting officer of State House, in charge of all administration affairs and oversees logistics at the House on the Hill.

Kamau was appointed during the Easter weekend — two days after Wanjohi became the Private Secretary — and assigned a new office away from the main State House block where the Comptroller is traditionally based.

Sources said there was a deliberate move to keep the Comptroller out of the daily limelight due to controversy his appointment could occasion.

Kamau, a former provincial administrator, had been the Finance and Administration director at State House before his appointment in an acting capacity.

However, his removal did not come as a surprise considering what has befallen those before him.

The first to be shown the door was Kibaki’s first Comptroller, Mr Matere Keriri, after a spat with First Lady Lucy Kibaki in 2003.

Alongside Mr Keriri was Mr Esau Kioni, the President’s former private security consultant, who was ejected from State House a few days before Keriri. But on the security consultant, Mr Kabira said: "It became obsolete the moment Government security took over."

Then there was Ms Jane Waikenda, who was senior protocol officer. She was moved to the Provincial Administration.

Head housekeeper

In 2004, Ms Wamaitha Muthumu, the executive housekeeper, was also removed and her place has not been filled. Muthumu joined the Kenya Airports Authority as the head housekeeper, a position she has since left and gone to private business.

After Muthumu was the State House food and beverage manager, Mr Arthur Mwai. His stint, too, was short-lived. Mwai is now the head of In-Flight Services and Standards at national carrier Kenya Airways.

And soon after the 2007 General Election, the President’s Special Advisor Stanley Murage left after a tiff with the First Lady.

Ms Nancy Kairo, the First Lady’s personal assistant, also left after a two-month stint.

During last year’s Christmas/New Year presidential holiday in Mombasa, former Comptroller Hyslop Ipu opted to go on leave after he was "frustrated" by a member of the First Family. Mr Ipu has since been redeployed to the Ministry of Roads.

Office of the President Principal Administration Secretary Francis Musyimi, who was a master of ceremonies at a function at State House Gardens presided over by the President, was shown the door after referring to the First Lady in a different name.

State House State House Comptroller Presidential Press Service PPS Isaiah Kabira
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