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Stephen Kirogo put citizens at centre of public service delivery

OPINION
By Charity Kisotu | May 20th 2021
Public Service Commission Chairman nominee Stephen Kirogo during the vetting process before the National Assembly the Administration and National Security Committee at Parliament [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The passing on of the chairman of the Public Service Commission Stephen Kinyanjui Kirogo last week caps an illustrious public service career spanning over 35 years.

Mr Kirogo became the commission’s second chairman under the 2010 Constitution in August 2018, succeeding Prof Margaret Kobia who had been appointed Cabinet Secretary the same year. 

Prior to his appointment as PSC Chairperson, Kirogo was the Principal Administrative Secretary/Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet in the Presidency and Cabinet Affairs Office. He had risen steadily through the ranks of the civil service from humble beginnings in 1984 as Assistant Secretary, District Officer, District Commissioner, Senior Assistant Secretary, Undersecretary, Deputy Secretary/Personal Assistant to Head of the Public Service, Secretary to the State Corporations Advisory Committee and finally to the position of Principal Administrative Secretary/Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet.

Organisational focus

Upon joining the commission, Kirogo embarked on a situational analysis with particular attention to the exercise of its mandate and this eventually led to a new organisational focus and strategic direction. He was passionate about transforming public service delivery and constantly reminded commissioners and staff that everything that the commission and the entire public service did was meant to have a positive impact on the citizens. He was particularly concerned that the commission’s constitutional function of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the public service had not been given the expected attention. The current vision of the commission - “A Citizen Centric Public Service” and its rallying call/mantra “Reform, Perform, Transform Kenya” was a result of these concerns in an effort to refocus the role of the commission.

He ensured the entrenchment of a performance culture and established a new Directorate of Performance and Service Delivery Transformation within the commission in order to focus sufficient attention towards improving performance and promoting efficiency and effectiveness in the entire public service. Alongside this, Kirogo spearheaded the development of the Public Service Commission (Performance Management) Regulations which are due for consideration by the National Assembly.

With hindsight drawn from his long career in the civil service, Mr Kirogo clearly understood the discordance in the public service with regard to human resource practice at the national and county levels. One of the flagship projects he keenly followed through was the need to develop a Human Resource Masterplan for the public service with the aim of ensuring that HR issues are at the forefront of the national development agenda and that people issues are given prominence in leadership discussions. He revolutionalised the HR practice by ensuring a human face to every decision made with his mantra of nothing is impossible. The commission is now regarded as a place where solutions are found and not the closed institution he found. 

Kirogo was a hands-on leader with deep concern for the welfare of public servants. The first major assignment he embarked on was the pension payment processing reforms. He was pained that a retired public officer had to wait for years before receiving a pension after years of committed service. He was committed to ensuring that there would be seamless transition from salary to pension. It is in this regard that he launched the Pensions Rapid Results Initiative that saw the elimination of bottlenecks in the processing of pension and the clearing of a huge backlog of pension claims. 

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Kirogo’s concern for the plight of citizens who were constantly complaining about inefficiency in the public service saw him passionately pursuing the agenda of putting the citizen at the centre of public service delivery. This saw the commission establish a contact centre that would enable citizens directly contact the commission over any complaints or compliments on public service delivery. He often stated that if citizens were unhappy, then the public service was not working for them. He had an open-door policy. Any citizen, regardless of status, was able to access him at his office.

He brought a human face to public service. His concern for the thousands of unemployed youths prompted the commission to establish the Public Service Internship Programme that has so far given an opportunity to 8,770 graduates to acquire industry experience in addition to being acquainted with the national values in Article 10 of the Constitution and the values and principles of public service in Article 232. He firmly believed in young people’s potential as drivers of the economy who needed to be empowered to play their role meaningfully.

Kirogo was compassionate and humane in dealing with public servants. He constantly reminded the commission and staff of the commission not to be transactional but to always remember that each letter and each file represented a human being with a family and feelings. It is this concern for public servants that saw him initiate the review of structures and implementation of the succession management programme in ministries

Public officers

The result of this has been the promotion of many public officers in ministries. He often said that no public servant should leave the service bitter. Public servants can attest that it is during his tenure that many public servants who had stagnated in their positions for years were finally remembered. 

Within the commission, Kirogo ensured the promotion of 119 lower cadre staff and had set in motion the review of the commission’s structure and promotion of senior staff for which he had made his wishes known to the commission and which the commission will complete.

On the regional scene, Kirogo was the Vice President of the Association of African Public Services Commissions. He was therefore not only passionate about service to the Kenyan public but also service to the whole of Africa.

The commission and indeed the entire public service will endeavour to immortalise Mr Kirogo’s great works by ensuring that his vision and dream of a better public service that is fit-for-purpose, dynamic and citizen-centric is realised.

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