Ruto reads riot act to CSs, vows to punish poor performance

President William Ruto signs performance contracts for Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and heads of parastatals at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

The honeymoon is over and some Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and heads of parastatals will soon be on the chopping board once President William Ruto cracks the whip as he promised on Tuesday. 

The Head of State sent the clearest signal yet of the looming axe when he locked out some CSs, PSs and heads of parastatals for reporting late to State House, Nairobi, for signing performance contracts.

President Ruto, time stickler, disciplinarian, keen to fine details and who does not mince his words, dressed down senior government officials, warning that he will deal with them decisively.

Interior and National Coordination Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Trade, Industry and Investment counterpart Moses Kuria arrived late for the signing of the performance contract.

“State House, Gate D, is literally a parking lot as top GOK officials who came in late for Performance Contract signing are locked out. CSs, PSs, and parastatal bosses all parked, hoping they will be allowed in. Meanwhile, the President demands a written explanation from each of them,” tweeted former State House communication guru Dennis Itumbi.

According to sources, Prof Kindiki was in his office coordinating security operations and evacuation of injured civilians and operation to pursue suspected Al Shabaab militants who attacked travellers at Lango la Simba on Monday morning, where two people were killed and scores injured.

According to a source at State House, the President took note of the names of CSs, PSs and the parastatal heads who arrived after he ordered the venue closed.

CS Kuria got into State House, but did not attend the meeting.

The president said some CSs and Pss could not be found on phone. An angry Ruto, said he won’t condone flimsy errors from leaders appointed to serve Kenyans and asked them to uphold integrity. “We have a job because we have a contract, if you cannot keep time with your employer you have basically dismissed yourself, it is just as simple as that,” he said.

He also cautioned State officials against corrupt practices while discharging their duties. Speaking during the ministerial contract signing ceremony at State House in Nairobi, Ruto specifically warned CSs to refrain from corrupt scandals and stressed the government’s commitment to ensure a clean record for the benefit of Kenyans.

“I have had a heart-to-heart with my Cabinet, and I want to do the same with Principal Secretaries down to directors. It will not be business as usual. I have made a commitment to Kenyans that there will be no money to steal; there is only money to deliver on government programmes, projects and aspirations of the people of Kenya,” he said.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua also told off CSs shying away from media interviews, emphasizing the importance of transparent communication with the public.

“Our ministers are quiet. They are called for TV interviews, but they do not show up to say what they have done, and then the media has a field day because nobody talks for the government,” said Gachagua.

“I would rather we spend more time explaining to Kenyans what we have done in our respective dockets as opposed to travel; and if we are to travel, let’s travel upcountry and explain to wananchi what we are doing,” he added. Ironically, some senior government officials have been waging war against the media, at times using expletives when they are implicated in mega scandals.  

Yesterday, Ruto reiterated his commitment to turn the national development agenda upside down, from the traditional top-down model that is essentially elite-centric, to a bottom-up model that is citizen-centric.

“The model would aim to positively impact millions of Kenyans at the bottom by focusing interventions where their greatest number find their livelihoods, which is the informal sector and, especially agriculture and the Hustler Economy,” he said.

He said the performance contracts have been perfected through a rigorous process of vetting key priorities and ring-fencing their funding through the National Treasury. “Every instrument that shall be derived from these contracts for implementation by MDAs must replicate this model and it shall be the duty of Cabinet Secretaries to ensure full conformity,” Ruto said.

The President said that as he had stated in April during the launch of the performance evaluation report, no public institution funded through the exchequer shall be exempt.

Implementation framework

He noted that in his manifesto, he set out the principles that would guide implementation framework of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda: Prioritisation, sequencing and financing and they were translating these aspirations to actionable instruments and at the same time unpacking them into the following commitments.

The principles are absorption of allocated funds including externally mobilised resources, measures to reduce the level of pending bills, digitisation of government services, demonstrable and measurable productivity, completion of projects, national tree cover restoration campaign and youth internship and industrial attachments.

The new model, the president said would entail measures to not only create millions of jobs and increase incomes, but also reduce the cost of living by mitigating the cost of energy, transport, shelter and healthcare as a share of household incomes.

“We agreed with the people that to deliver this transformative model, five sectors would form the core pillars of our agenda to bring down the cost of living, eradicate hunger, create jobs, expand the tax base, improve our foreign exchange balance and deliver inclusive growth, and do so from the bottom-up,” he said. 

The tongue-lashing comes days after the president asked senior government officials to cut down on foreign trips. He suspended non-essential travel and criticised government officials who frequently travel abroad, hindering the functioning of Cabinet committees.

Through a memo issued by Head of Public Service Felix Koskei, executive members are limited to only 45 days of travel abroad in a year, with no more than 15 days per quarter and seven consecutive days outside the country, excluding travel days.

In January, President Ruto read the riot act to CSs and PSs at the opening of a three days retreat with government officials at Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki.