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William Ruto backtracks on 'lean government' pledge

President William Ruto addresses newly sworn-in Cabinet Secretaries at State House in Nairobi on October 27, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto is going against the pressure of the ballooning wage bill as he crafts his administration, which has expanded the size of the Executive and is on course for a bigger government than his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.

Rather than winnow the government bloat, Ruto has increased the number of State departments, created new executive positions and made more Cabinet-level appointments.

Despite promising a lean and efficient government on the campaign trail, Ruto has gone the other direction filling, ministries and State departments with allies and loyalists amid concern that the size of the government will burden the taxpayer more.

The new positions are coming at the expense of an economy that is struggling partly because of massive wage bill.

Ruto's list of Principal Secretary nominees he announced earlier in the week had seven more PSs than the ones in the Jubilee administration.

Yet one of Ruto's first actions as Head of State was to direct the Treasury to reduce the nearly Sh1.18 trillion recurrent budget by Sh300 billion.

Ruto has created the position of Chief Cabinet Secretary and appointed ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi to the role.

Dr Fred Ogola said the move would take from the poor to sustain the newly created positions and their holders.

"The structure is going to be bloated. It will cost the taxpayer more. The structure and cost of the government should save costs to give to the poor," said Ogola, a political strategist.

Besides that, Ruto's Cabinet meetings will have Harriet Chiggai as an adviser to the Women's Rights Agency, and Monica Juma as an adviser to the National Security Council.

But the real size of Ruto's government is seen when comparing the number of PS nominees to Uhuru's. Whereas Uhuru has 42, Ruto has 49.

Ruto has split some departments within the government and created new ones that align with the promises he made while campaigning.

For instance, the Ministry of Interior and National Administration will now have three state departments. The Ministry of Health has been split into departments of Medical Services and Public Health.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a new department of Diaspora Affairs, and the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development will have three state departments - Lands, Physical Planning, and Housing and Urban Development.

Government Coordination has been moved under the Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary headed by Mudavadi and the Trade, Investment, and Industry ministry will have three departments from two in the previous regime.

Ruto has already indicated that he intends to continue with the role of Chief Administrative Secretary whose legality has been challenged in court.

Some roles at State House include the Economic Transformation Secretariat headed by Dr Augustine Cheruiyot, Fiscal Affairs & Budget Policy office headed by Dr Kamau Thugge, President's Council of Economic Advisors headed by Dr David Ndii.

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