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Civil service changes loom as senior officers quit for politics

By Jacob Ngetich | January 8th 2017
Former Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia

A host of public servants, including Cabinet Secretaries, heads of government agencies and hundreds of national and county employees, are set to ditch the service and train their eyes on elective seats.

Already, some county executives have tendered their resignations even before the February 8 deadline.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2016 requires public servants who want to contest to leave office six months before the General Election owing to a tight political parties elections calendar.

The public service code of conduct bars public officers from seeking political positions while in office, but this does not affect the President, Deputy President, governors, deputy governors, MPs and MCAs.

Among those who have indicated they will resign include Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s adviser on political affairs Joshua Kuttuny and his Education counterpart Kilemi Mwiria.

Others are Kenyan Ambassador to Tanzania Chirau Makwere, former ministers Henry Kosgey, Samuel Poghisio, former Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia, former MPs Omingo Magara and Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile, all who either head or are members of parastatals.

The civil servants are among a host of other national and county workers who have declared interest in political seats.

Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Margaret Kobia said although she had not received any resignations, she anticipates several towards the deadline in February.

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Smooth operations

Prof Kobia said there were plans to ensure smooth operations are not interfered with the staff exit.

“Their resignations will be accepted by the government and they will hand over to the senior-most officers in their departments, so there will be no vacuum,” she said.

Wamalwa’s personal assistant Kizito Temba said the CS would heed the constitutional deadline once he decides on where he would run for the governor’s seat.

“During Christmas, Wamalwa was approached by thousands of residents from Trans Nzoia to run for the county governor’s seat. He has also received a delegation of 65 MCAs and a host of MPs from Nairobi who have approached him to vie for the city’s top job.”

“Once he has decided on where between the two counties he will go for, he will definitely obey the deadline,” said Temba.

Charles Keter, who was Kericho senator before he was appointed Energy CS in 2015, said he wished to continue working at the ministry.

“I want to continue serving the President and his deputy in my capacity as the CS. It would not make sense for me to resign as senator and in less than two years exit government for the same seat,” said Keter, who was appointed after the resignation of his predecessor Davis Chirchir.

Kimemia and Kosgey also indicated that they were on their way out. Whereas the career civil servant and former secretary to the cabinet is going for the Nyandarua governor’s seat, Kosgey is eyeing the same position in Nandi.

Kosgey, who is now the Tourism Fund chairman and a long-serving minister in the retired presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki governments, lost his Senate bid to Stephen Sang in 2013. Magara, who chairs the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Board, said he will resign on February 7 to go for the Kisii Senate seat, which is currently occupied by Chris Obure.

Magara, who lost to Obure in 2013, said he would not, however, relinquish his chairman’s position at the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) because that is not a public service job.

“I am determined to win the Kisii seat,” he said.

Mwiria said he was ready to quit and would take advantage of his leave days once he resigns.

“I am prepared for the Meru governor’s race and I will leave office at the beginning of February,” said Mwiria.

Kuttuny said although he will exit before the deadline, he was a founder member of Jubilee and would not relent until Uhuru is re-elected.

Hit the road running

“I am ready to depart and thank the Head of State for the honour to serve in his office as an adviser. I am prepared to hit the road running for the Cherangany constituency seat, but I will also continue to offer my advice to the President on a private capacity until he wins the election,” he said.

Kimemia, who chairs the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), said he had made inroads in Nyandarua and was prepared to campaign for the seat.

“I’m ready to serve my people in politics after my long service to the country,” he said.

The mass resignations will likely hamper the operations in several ministries, state agencies and President Kenyatta will need to immediately seek for their replacements.

In the counties, hundreds of staff have indicated that they were planning to quit and run for the various political seats.

More than half of the Meru County’s County Executive Committee has declared interest for political seats in what is likely to disturb operations at the devolved unit.

Almost similar cases have been reported in Turkana, Embu, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Laikipia.

Council of Governors Chief Executive Officer Jackline Mongeni said they were aware that several of counties’ senior staff are going into politics.

She said they had put in place contingency measures to ensure county operations are not crippled.

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