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Cabinet Secretary Francis Kimemia speaks out, demystifies Cabinet position

COUNTIES
By Abdikadir Sugow | June 30th 2013

By ABDIKADIR SUGOW 

Mr Francis Kimemia has for the first time spoken about the powerful and influential office that he holds, which has made him an object of barbs and bouquets in equal measure.

In an extensive interview with The Standard On Sunday, the Cabinet Secretary describes his office as competitive and demanding and not a place for idlers, wishful thinkers or witch-hunting.

He says the office projects the Presidency and the overall image of government, as it remains central to co-ordination and command of functions of government and public service delivery.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s office is not for day-dreamers but for doer-dreamers, where positive outcomes and results remains the order of the day,” he says.

Ordinary Kenyans who cannot reach the President at State House can access his agents, including himself from the corridors of Harambee House, he says.

“This office is very crucial and remains the heartbeat of government. It is not for joyriders but well-meaning, hardworking and honest people who can serve the President, the government and the public.”

Neither is it meant for the power-hungry, nor the unskilled who cannot handle service delivery.

“It is not a place for gossip but a place to serve Wanjiku (members of the public) on issues like insecurity, land, community development while at the same time encouraging investors.

“The office holder must remain balanced and focused to serve the taxpayer. Kenyans need a government that takes care of their pockets and provides food for their stomachs and not mere empty rhetoric,” he adds.

Key directives

Kimemia says the new constitutional dispensation provides that the government immediately implements Cabinet directives to avoid a backlog, as happened in previous administrations.

He intends to apply some of the reforms which he initiated at the Provincial Administration office while he was Permanent Secretary to ensure that all government departments remain effective.

Of immediate concern is the streamlining and synchronisation of the National government system with County governments by cutting bureaucracy and encouraging collaboration and partnerships between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary.

Among those top on the list of priorities for the new government are security enhancement and implementation of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia (LAPPSET) project that will connect Lamu to Juba in Southern Sudan by road, railway and oil pipeline.

The efficiency of the port of Mombasa is also a priority, as is the removal of all roadblocks along the highway to Malaba as directed by President Uhuru.

The government has plans to speed up the construction of a standard gauge electrified railway line to ferry passengers and cargo to and from Mombasa, Nairobi and Malaba.

On education, Kimemia disclosed plans to decentralise the Commission for Higher Education to the county level so as to check on the mushrooming of universities and colleges.

He said the government has made tremendous effort to uphold the standard of education in the country, with already 15 fully-fledged public universities established on top of the existing private ones.

“Our centres of knowledge must not be tribalised in a manner that lecturers of a given university are all from the same region. CHE must check on such bias in order to allow proper interaction of students and lecturers,” he says.

Kimemia likens his job, which is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week affair, to a police station as he is consulted on a host of government matters.

Apart from government briefs from State officials, including fellow Cabinet Secretaries and security agencies as early as 5am, Kimemia has to contend with the bulk of work that includes upto 1,000 letters a day.

His office complement includes a Principal Administrator, who is at the level of Principal Secretary, and other staff who help him run the office. Speaking on Jubilee’s pet subject of a digital economy, Kimemia disclosed that in the near future Cabinet business will be digitalized, including Online presentations and tracking implementation without compromising on the security of government agenda.

He says currently, many Cabinet decisions are left unimplemented because of the manual record-keeping. This means that physical Cabinet meetings will be minimised to save on time to follow-up on the implementation of Cabinet agenda.

Kimemia operates an open office. “We are here to serve the public and we have advised all the Provincial Administration to do the same”.

The government is working on a paper titled, Improving Kenya’s Competitiveness Index, to address shortfalls in Kenya’s business environment and to attract investors.

Among Kimemia’s achievements in his long civil service career is an award he obtained in 2008 for helping research the reforms agenda for the Provincial Administration and Internal Security, where he developed 18 approved crucial publications and manuals. The Provincial Administration was first to implement the guidelines contained therein, which have now also been adopted by other state departments and agencies.

They include the Performance Contracting, the Citizen Services Charter, the Service Register that maps out issues and their resolution, and a newly developed manual paper used by District Officers (DOs) and Chiefs to fast-track public matters within their jurisdictions.

He was also instrumental in formulating the current slate of police stations, where room-cells were drastically changed to cater for women and children and the introduction of special desks.

He headed a team of government officers who recommended the introduction of customer care desks and suggestion boxes in all State offices.

According to Article 154 of 3(d) of the Constitution, the Secretary to the Cabinet is responsible for arranging the business, keeping the minutes of the Cabinet, conveys Cabinet decisions to the appropriate persons or authorities and other functions as directed by the Cabinet.

In this office, Kimemia has not been without detractors.

He says there are individuals bent on maligning his name with the sole purpose of occupying this office. Pressed to elaborate, he says: “It is someone with a personal interest….he just wants to occupy this office through an uncouth manner”.

He says he has no problem with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, adding that ODM-allied MPs supported his nomination in Parliament.


 

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