Dysfunctional Cabinet impedes State on its action plans

President Uhuru Kenyatta chairing a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi, 2020. [PSCU]

On the authority of the Kenya Constitution, the Cabinet is the highest executive body charged with managing the State’s affairs. With 21 members, including the president, deputy president, the Attorney-General and Cabinet Secretaries, the Cabinet forms the main decision-making group within the government.

The Cabinet is responsible for, among other duties, formulating and directing government policies, and making decisions on national and international issues. It initiates government Bills, which are debated in Parliament and interprets government programmes to the citizenry. In addition, the Cabinet updates the Head of State on the progress of activities taking place in the ministries. It also advises and guides the president on matters pertaining to the administration and governance of the country.

Through the Cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury, the Cabinet prepares the national budget, which shows government expenditure and sources of revenue. To cap it all, the Cabinet provides Parliament with full and regular reports concerning matters under their jurisdiction.

Judging from the ongoing events within government circles, the Cabinet has failed miserably at its cardinal tasks. This is largely due to failure to meet regularly under the chairmanship of the president to review, plan, strategise and deliberate on national issues. For the last 12 months or thereabouts, the Cabinet has not met, even as the country prepares for transition elections.

Indeed, there is clear evidence that the Cabinet’s coordination and decision-making capacity has collapsed. The Cabinet, which was powerful and effective, is today a shadow of itself – it is moribund, lacks vitality and cohesion all of which we can attribute to the absence of regular full Cabinet meetings. 

As we approach the election date, the president appears totally immersed in succession politics while the government wobbles. If the Head of State fails to steady the ship and get control of the Cabinet in the remaining five months, the consequences could be disastrous.

It seems the Cabinet members are not reading from the same script, probably the reason why the Head of State found it scary to convene Cabinet meetings. Divisions in the Cabinet have set in a vacuum in the country’s leadership, and the absence of regular Cabinet meetings has electrocuted government functions. For instance, in the absence of a functional Cabinet the government cannot fully address insecurity in parts of Rift Valley and Coast regions, high-level poverty and inequality, collapsing sugar, coffee and tea industries and failed Universal Health Coverage.

Other areas that seriously need the input of the Cabinet are finding permanent solutions to the fledgling Competency Based Curriculum; endemic corruption in the government; security and administration of impending General Election; and escalating cost of living and medicare.  

Failure by the Cabinet to meet and discharge its functions regularly leads to disintegration of the government where State organs and agencies no longer function properly. In this situation, the government loses its legitimacy. For a stable State, it is necessary for the government to enjoy both effectiveness and legitimacy.

The writer is a member of Parliamentary committees on Education and Labour