Not so fast Prof. Mutahi Ngunyi! First let me give you a big F for FAIL, for the crisis communications fiasco that has befallen former Devolution Cabinet secretary (CS), Anne Waiguru.
She is now damaged goods politically and socially. On a personal level I bet the woman is having sleepless nights wondering “what the hell did I get myself into?”
When a high profile figure like Waiguru has a crisis on her hands, such as the Sh791 million NYS fraud, this is the time to either show that she is a leader taking charge of the issue or she botches it through missteps of her own making and that of her aides such as Ngunyi. Unfortunately the later happened.
In crisis communications, when a damaging item such as the NYS fraud explodes into the public, the first thing to do is to assemble your crisis team and get as much of the facts as possible. The next step is to follow these three important steps; 1. Do the right thing 2. Show that you are doing the right thing and 3. Do not mix step 1 and 2. The aim of this is to get the CS as far away from the centre of the crisis as possible.
Well none of this has happened. Waiguru has been negatively hogging the headlines for close to a year now. Initially the aides used an important tactic in crisis communications; framing the message, which showed that she was in-charge and had handed the matter to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). The public quickly understood this message and were probably on her side.
This is when Waiguru should have stepped away from the centre of the scandal and left it to the EACC and DCI to deal with it. With the way the EACC and DCI handle high profile cases this scandal would have probably blown away long ago.
The two investigative agencies would have been able to stonewall any questions by saying the case was under investigations and the CS would have said likewise. Unfortunately she has stubbornly dug her heels at the centre of the crisis to her own professional and personal detriment.
In the middle of last year she was busy with media events, receiving an NYS audit report from EACC and later announcing that 21 officials from her ministry were under investigations by the DCI.
She was trying to show that she was doing the right thing. But now this all seemed to have been a charade and the public was probably not believing her. She should have left these media events to the EACC and DCI or even a news release.
And as things unraveled, she was done in by her former PS Peter Mangiti who released an extravagant shopping list from her office. Once again she stepped in to the centre of the crisis to
become the story instead of letting Mangiti mop up the mess he had created. Despite her resignation from the Cabinet, the scandal has become the gift that keeps giving.
Since the time she quit, she kept low and away from the eye of the scandal. But in late January she decided to transform herself into a politician and run for governor of Nairobi. Now cleaning up a damaged leader is not easy and it needs a long cooling off period, an apology and act of contrition for the public to forgive you and hopefully consider you for office. None of this has happened.
The former CS should have been advised by her aides that she should have started her transformation journey away from the cameras and media, doing acts of charity in different parts of Nairobi County for a year, before announcing she wants to be governor.
She should have let the public that she has helped, do the talking for her. As of now the only narrative that the public knows about her is that she was in-charge when NYS lost Sh791 million. And if we believe Josphine Kabura’s damning affidavit, Waiguru was the mastermind in defrauding tax payers.
As it is said in politics “Don’t let your rivals paint your cart when you are going to the market.” Well Waiguru’s cart has been painted with NYS scandal. She will not be able to shake that off when other governor contestants such as Kidero, Sonko, and Wanjiru come after her.
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Ngunyi and Waiguru’s other aides totally mishandled this situation and failed in crisis communications. They did too much spin including trying to be cute by framing her as a state witness and underestimated the public. But it may not be their entire fault for as the political scientist stated in his final advice to the former CS “Listen more and speak less.” I hope Waiguru heeds this important advice in the face of the NYS scam that continues to turn up a story that won’t die anytime soon.