Hits and misses of Ruto's Cabinet after 100 days in office

And whereas the Cabinet Secretaries have put their best foot forward, a lot more is yet to be achieved.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has led the charge to end banditry that has plagued Northern Kenya for years. He has trained his guns on counties such as Isiolo, Marsabit, Laikipia, Samburu, Garissa, Turkana, Baringo, Wajir, and Tana River which have over the years been the hardest hit by insecurity.

Last week, the CS said the government is scaling up efforts to end decades of insecurity in various parts of the country and will not relent to use brute-force incapacitation, to make banditry a costly undertaking for the perpetrators and its sponsors.

He has previously said the State would deploy 450 National Police Reservists (NPRs) in Kerio Valley to boost security following the killing of two people. The Interior CS while on a tour of Ketut village where two school girls were killed, directed the reinstatement of 300 NPRs withdrawn in 2019. He also ordered the recruitment of 150 additional reservists.

In line with his commitment to ensuring security, the CS has also conducted a reshuffle of all regional commissioners. In a public notice dated December 31, Kindiki appointed three women administrators.

Kindiki has also moved to address delays in issuance of passports at Nyayo House with a promise to look into the bottlenecks and implement solutions such as availing additional funding. During an impromptu visit to Nyayo House last year, the CS pledged to ensure that

The process of issuance of passports was hastened following sustained uproar from the public over the costly delays.

He is, however, yet to implement the opening of 40 new passport issuance centers across the counties as earlier pledged.

Moreover, CS Kindiki has set up a police unit to protect water sources and infrastructure across the country so as to avert losses amounting to Sh10.6 billion annually through the destruction of water infrastructure and wrong billing.

In a renewed fight against alcoholism in Central, the CS has since ordered a crackdown on illicit brews and drugs.

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen has been instrumental in reverting port operations back to Mombasa following a directive by President Ruto during his inauguration.

Ruto had during the campaigns claimed that the transfer of port operations to Naivasha was against the agreement made during the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

He stated that the Naivasha dry port was put up to benefit a few individuals at the expense of the Mombasa economy. Port operations were moved to Naivasha by immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The CS has also been able to navigate a crippling pilots' strike, with the help of the courts. Shortly after being sworn in, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association issued a strike notice over their retirement funds and the payment of all salaries stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They, however, called off their strike following a court order and behind-the-scenes negotiations with the CS. But Murkomen has largely been unable to tame increased road accidents that continue to claim many lives every year, despite increasing awareness and enforcement.

According to a report by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), 4,432 Kenyans lost their lives on the road between January and November 2022. This represented a three per cent increase in road accidents from 4,271 in the same period the previous year.

A ravaging drought that has driven 4.3 million Kenyans to the brink of starvation has also continued to cast a dark cloud over the Ruto regime.

Senators from Arid and Semi-Arid lands (ASALs) on Tuesday put the issue into perspective as they brought to the fore that the drought has led to the loss of nearly 70 per cent of livestock for lack of pasture and water in the affected communities, with the fate of the remaining livestock hanging in the balance.

They were concerned that non-state actors have not mobilized resources to respond to the drought on a magnitude commensurate to the severity of the situation on the ground.

The little or occasional food distribution from the Government, they added, is extremely insufficient to save lives and called for proper mitigation measures to ensure no lives are lost due to famine and starvation.

But East African Community and ASALs CS Rebecca Miano yesterday assured the country that enough contingency measures had been put in place- including conducting an emergency assessment of the drought situation, declaration of drought as a national disaster, and supply of relief food and cash.

"Since 2021, the government has thus far spent more than Sh25 billion to cushion affected populations against starvation and other drought effects. The interventions have mainly been in the areas of; food aid and cash transfers; water and sanitation; Agriculture and livestock; Education Health and nutrition; Peace and security and Drought response coordination to ensure synergy and complementarity," said Miano.

"I would like to reiterate that the government is doing everything possible to ease the suffering of Kenyans affected by drought albeit with meager fiscal resources," she added.

Cooperatives and MSME's Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has been at the forefront in spearheading one of President Ruto's flagship projects - the Sh50 billion Hustler Fund.

A total of Sh16.5 billion from the fund has so far been disbursed as of January 30 this year, according to data released by the CS. Out of this, slightly over Sh8 billion has been repaid translating to over 50 percent.

A total of 27.5 million transactions have been recorded while the number of Kenyans who have opted in stands at 18.5 million. Last Friday, Chelugui also announced that the Hustler Fund loans of up to Sh2.5 million for small and micro enterprises will be ready by end of the month.

The loans will be disbursed through saving and credit co-operative societies (Saccos) and commercial banks.

The initiative has, however, been dogged by court cases over its constitutionality; A civil society group- 'Operation Linda Ugatuzi'- has gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of the Hustler Fund.

It has raised 15 concerns it wants the court to address, including the manner in which the Fund operates, saying it has no established office or entity. The case at the High Court in Milimani will be mentioned on February 15.

Six-month delay

The government has a backlash over delay in the disbursement of the Inua Jamii / "Pesa za wazee" billions. Government on January 9, disbursed Sh8.58 billion to 1.07 million beneficiaries after a six-month delay.

The Azimio coalition party has, however, criticised the National government for the delay and accused it of trying to end the cash transfer programme. Citing the high cost of living, the Opposition has also demanded that the current allocation of Sh2,000 per person be doubled to Sh4,000 and progressively scaled up to at least Sh6,000 a month.

President Ruto, during a joint media interview at State House, however, defended the delay in disbursements.

"The challenges we have faced with Pesa ya Wazee is because we do not have adequate resources. We must appreciate that our economy was not doing well, and somebody needed to come and bring back our economy, and that is what I'm doing. I want to promise the people of Kenya that I will sort out this economy," he said.

In the education sector, Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu has so far encountered turbulence while overseeing the CBC transition from primary school to Junior Secondary School (JSS).

His ministry has issued provisional guidelines on the management of JSS so as to have the transition midwifed accordingly and the domiciling of JSS in primary schools.

The endeavour is, however, facing myriad challenges.

Governors, such as Kericho's Eric Mutai, and education experts - such as those at the Elimu Bora lobby group- have pointed out loopholes in the transition into JSS.

The lobby group has singled out lack of sufficient trained teachers to handle a large number of learners. They are also concerned that some of the 30,000 newly recruited teachers do not understand the new curriculum.

President Ruto had in December directed that the JSS learners be accommodated in primary schools and not in secondary schools as initially envisaged.

The CS has also received a barrage of criticism ranging from credibility of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results to the financing of university education.

Eliud Owalo, the ICT Cabinet Secretary, has picked up from where Uhuru left off and is keen on digitizing 5,000 government services by end of this year.

Already, 600 services have been digitized and his ministry is set to initiate a digital citizen registration drive akin to the Huduma number, to hasten and aid the digitization process.

Meanwhile, Treasury CS Njuguna Ndungu continues to walk a slippery slope in his efforts to resuscitate a battered economy and fund government expenditure.

Already struggling with lowering the cost of living, the CS has urged Kenyans to brace for tough economic times as the effects of the Russia -Ukraine war continue to hit home.

Consequently, Ndungu has issued directives to ministries to implement austerity measures, including the suspension of any new construction initiatives, to be able to weather the crisis.

Others such as Trade CS Moses Kuria have pushed for local manufacturing as opposed to imports, Duale has deployed troops to DR Congo to pacify the region while his Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua has intensified his visit to gulf countries to probe the loss of lives of Kenyans working there.