Tower of Babel: Bickering CSs in blame game and at cross-purpose

Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen flanked by airport officials at the JKIA generator room on November 15, 2023.  [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

President William Ruto’s Cabinet Secretaries have for the umpteenth time been caught up again in blame game, usurpation, and encroachment into other ministries in what could be seen as a lack of unity of purpose.

Despite clear executive orders and the need for team spirit, the Cabinet members, including Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, have in the past spoken at cross-purpose, exposing the soft underbelly of the Kenya Kwanza government.

The just-ended week was a typical case of the government speaking from both sides of the mouth. On a day when Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen was decrying the repeated failure of backup generators at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), another CS seemed to be pointing fingers.

Murkomen wrote to the Inspector of Police Japheth Koome to investigate possible economic sabotage on the failure of backup generators at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

“The matter has been addressed progressively and numerous tests conducted to ensure that there is an immediate change-over in the event of a power outage…. However, despite all the above interventions, JKIA experienced another failure of the changeover to the standby generators last night,” said Murkomen in his letter. 

While the Transport CS was concerned at the ineptitude at the JKIA, Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir seemed to point fingers over the failures of the generators at the JKIA.

“I experienced the blackout firsthand at the JKIA because I had just arrived from Dubai. We are shocked by the incident because it happened again in November and August,” said Chirchir, not clear if he was referring to the failures that JKIA had or the power outage. 

Chirchir seemed to suggest that similar occurrences of power outages were bound to happen unless there were major interventions in the power supply chain.

“It is bound to happen again but we will look at serious maintenance but the gist of it is lack of investment in the network for a long time. Whereas we see the outage to be bad, it is actually the system protecting itself... can you imagine if there was no protection and the system burned down?” said Chirchir.

He blamed the old electricity line for the power outages and noted that if there was money for new lines, it would still take over a year and a half to put down the network.

“When we have not invested in the line in many years, this is the result. You give us the money today, we cannot build the network in one day, it will take 20 months,” said Chirchir.

The DP defended Murkomen, blaming Uhuru Kenyatta’s government for procuring a “fake” generator.

Last Sunday, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria seemed to veer off to Transport and Interior and Coordination ministries’ dockets when he raised concerns about reports of traffic police officers, particularly in Eldoret, allegedly soliciting bribes from owners of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) covered by Xplico Insurance.

CS Kuria pointed out that the insurance company was only placed in receivership on Friday, making it illogical to harass drivers covered by the now-defunct insurer over the weekend.

Friday last week, the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) appointed the Policyholders Compensation Fund (PCF) to manage Xplico Insurance.

“I have received reports about traffic police officers asking for bribes from PSV owners who have cover from Xplico Insurance, which was only put under receivership yesterday. It’s not reasonable to expect innocent policyholders to get new cover over the weekend,” Kuria wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Kuria said he had raised the attention of the Inspector General pleading with authorities to investigate and address the reported incidents as soon as possible and urged the affected PSV owners to remain firm and resist any attempts to coerce them into corruption or bribery.

The matter of traffic police falls under the Interior docket while matatus and insurance-related matters fall under the Transport docket.

Mid this year, Health CS Susan Nakhumincha purported to order the transfer of Matisi OCS in Trans Nzoia County over incompetence.

“In government, we are doing one government approach. It does not require the presence of Interior CS Prof Kithure Kindiki to transfer an OCS in this area. So I am giving orders, county commandant if you are here, by tomorrow the Matisi OCS should be out,” said Nakhumincha.

Late last year, CS Kuria asked farmers in the North Rift to ensure they sell maize to the National Cereal and Produce Board, arguing that anyone hoarding maize would face a loss.

At the time, Kuria was the CS for Trade, Industry and Investment while maize buying was in the docket of Agriculture under CS Mithika Linturi.

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