Ruto holds talks with Uhuru to end retirement benefits dispute

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua after a Cabinet meeting at State House Nairobi. [PCS, Standard]

President William Ruto on Tuesday moved to unlock a two-year stalemate with his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta when he called him to resolve more than Sh1 billion delayed facilitation.

State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohammed announced that a team headed by the Head of Public Service had been formed to address concerns raised by Uhuru.

“This morning, President William Ruto had a conversation with his predecessor in office, the 4th President, President Uhuru Kenyatta, regarding concerns about facilitating the functioning of the retired President’s office... The President has consequently constituted a team, led by the Head of Public Service, to immediately address all the issues raised, including the location of the retired President’s office and the attendant staff establishment,” Hussein posted on X.

Uhuru’s spokesperson, Kanze Dena, said the former State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua visited the State House for a meeting with his successor Katoo ole Metito to discuss the modalities of the engagement.

“The former State House Comptroller - being Uhuru’s Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) holder - met with his successor following the two leaders’ phone conversations,” she said.

Later, the President informed the Cabinet about his conversation with Uhuru and assured them that they had resolved the issues surrounding budgetary allocation to the former President’s office, said a source who sought anonymity.

No conflict

“The President informed us that the issues had been resolved and there would be no conflict between his office and the office of the former President.”

Asked for details of the meeting, Dena said: “The other side is better placed to give more details on that.”

On Monday, Dena said Uhuru’s office had a pending budget of about Sh1 billion owed from 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 and accused the government of starving them of funds contrary to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act

She noted that the former President had been paying for his office operations, including fuel for official cars, car repairs, and foreign and domestic travels.

She accused the State House of failing to remit a single cent of the Sh503 million budgetary allocation in the current financial year, which ends in less than three weeks.

Dena said the office had only received Sh28 million in allowances for domestic travel and two official trips.

“The year is ending without the office having any access to this allocation. The total amount for the two years that we have not had access to is approximately 1 billion Kenya shillings,” she said.

However, Government Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura later dismissed the claims, saying “they also falsely alleged that their fuel cards have been blocked. We, however, put it on record that the vehicles are fueled through the State House. Our records show that several vehicles were fueled as recently as May 15, 2024.”

The development, according to pundits, has left the Government Spokesperson with egg on his face after the President personally intervened to solve the stalemate.

“The statement by the Office of Government Spokesperson and that of the State House Spokesperson exposes the uncoordinated nature of government’s disposal of communication, it shows that there lacks a structural manner on how the information is dispersed and this will culminate in embarrassing the Head of State if not addressed,” said Charles Njoroge.

Prof Gitile Naitule, a governance expert, said the Head of State moved quickly to solve the matter as he did not want to be seen as an aggressor of the Mt Kenya region.

“The region is restive over certain emerging issues revolving about politics, high cost of living and tax regime and other issues such as demolitions and the President could have moved with speed to avoid being as the man behind the woes surrounding the region, as to whether the phone conversation will amount to any development, that remains to be seen,” he said.