Inside search for William Ruto's top banker to steer the CBK ship

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The race to succeed outgoing Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge has hit the homestretch after the government unveiled finalists for the top Central Banker role. 

Dr Njoroge exits office next month after serving two terms.

The State yesterday also started the search for the chairperson of the CBK as it unveiled finalists for the Commission on Revenue Allocation's (CRA) top boss.

This comes as President William Ruto patches up the crucial final architecture of the money men and women who will help his administration fix the troubled economy and deliver on his campaign pledges.

The expected changes at the two institutions which preside over Kenya's finances and monetary policy come amid uncertainty over the country's fragile economy and inflation outlook.

Ballooning inflation, escalating borrowing costs, and a strong dollar have made repaying sovereign loans and raising money significantly more expensive for Kenya amid fears of default. The cash shortage has seen the government struggle to pay civil servants and disburse county government obligations.

The shilling has weakened against the dollar, piling further pressure on Kenyans enduring a high cost of living crisis that has plunged many into poverty and fuelled political unrest.

The CBK Act states: “There shall be two deputy governors who shall be appointed by the president through a transparent competitive process and with the approval of Parliament.”

President Ruto in March appointed Susan Jemtai Koech as the new Deputy Governor of the CBK.

Among the six finalists picked by the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the top CBK boss job include two current Ruto economic advisers and Kamau Thugge, and Adan Mohamed. The PSC has also shortlisted former CBK deputy governors Haron Sirima and Edward Sambili.

Others are Nancy Onyango who is the director of the Office of Internal Audit and Inspection at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Dorcas Muthoni Mutonyi.

Sirima is the Director-General for Public Debt Management Office at the Treasury while Dr Thugge is a senior adviser and head of fiscal and budget policy in the Executive Office of the President.

Battered economy

Thugge is among a group of economists and experienced technocrats who have been appointed by Ruto to help steer the battered economy and implement the bottom-up economic model touted by the ruling Kenya Kwanza administration as the panacea to the country’s economic woes.

Analysts told The Standard yesterday that the new CBK boss will require long-term experience to effectively steer monetary policy in an economy battered by the effects of Covid-19, rising food and fuel prices fuelled by the war in Ukraine, and soaring public debt.

Besides professional qualifications, the Ruto Government is also expected to engage in a delicate balancing act at a time State appointments are increasingly facing scrutiny on whether they pass the test of ethnic, gender, and regional balance and diversity.

The State also shortlisted candidates for the chairperson of the CRA.

They include former long-serving principal secretary Esther Koimett and former Members of Parliament Moses Lessonet and Thomas Mwadeghu. Others are Maurice Onyango, Hussein Dima, Paul Kuria Felicity Nkirote Biriri, Mary Wanyonyi, and John Njeru Njagi.

A new chairperson will take over at a time the CRA has been pushing counties to improve their revenue collection systems in a bid to raise more cash internally and cut reliance on transfers from Treasury.

The principal function of the commission is to make recommendations concerning the basis for the equitable sharing of revenue raised by the national government between the national and county governments; and among counties,

The nine-member commission comprises seven commissioners nominated by political parties, the chairperson, and Treasury Principal Secretary. The PSC is also seeking applicants for the chairperson of the CBK, a position currently held by lawyer Mohamed Nyaoga.

Sheila M’Mbijjewe has been serving as the lone deputy governor since June 2015 after the CBK board failed to renew the term of her counterpart Haron Sirima, who later took up a new role at the National Treasury’s Debt Management Office.

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