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New Treasury debt chief finally takes office

By Otiato Guguyu | February 7th 2019
By Otiato Guguyu | February 7th 2019

Former Central Bank Deputy Governor Haron Sirma has finally taken reins at the National Treasury’s Debt Management Office.

Dr Sirma, who prior to his appointment as deputy CBK governor in 2011 served as the deputy director of debt management at the finance ministry, officially took up his new role last month having quietly assumed office after getting a cold shoulder from the establishment.

He was appointed on June 5, last year but was forced to work from his private office on Nairobi’s Mama Ngina Street even as Jackson Kinyanjui, the director of resource mobilisation at the unit is still listed as acting director-general on Treasury’s website

“He came in after Christmas and has been at Treasury for a while now,” a source not authorised to speak to the press, told The Standard.

Dr Sirma is expected to clean up the mess at the Treasury’s Debt Management Office which is grossly understaffed.

The unit has also been blamed for allowing the country’s debt to balloon unsustainably to Sh5.1 trillion.

Top officials at Treasury are said to be uncomfortable with him, having been successfully recruited by the Public Service Commission (PSC) through a competitive exercise.

The World Bank had also noted last year that Treasury was resisting the office as it would stand in the way of its wayward borrowing that has seen the country’s debt reach unsustainable levels.

Last year, the global lender noted that Treasury had been dragging its feet in implementing reforms to strengthen the debt strategy.

The World Bank regretted that without adequate staff and clear leadership and accountability, the office faced challenges in carrying out its work.

Dr Sirma will need to hit the ground running with big ticket repayments, including a commercial loans to Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank amounting to $766 million (Sh76.6 billion) in March as well and a $750 million (Sh75 billion) five-year Eurobond due by June.

Another Sh37.1 billion syndicated loan arranged by the Trade and Development Bank, formerly PTA Bank, is due bofore the end of that month.

To aid Dr Sirma, Treasury has been looking to recruit a debt management consultant to provide guidance in determining borrowing ceilings for national and county governments.

The expert is supposed to help drive changes at the debt management office following an internal advertisement in July last year seeking 20 officers to fill vacancies after Treasury broke up its risk and debt mobilisation functions.

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