Ruto in dilemma over disbanding Cabinet amidst public pressure

President William Ruto and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during a special cabinet meeting at State House Nairobi on July 4, 2024. [PCS]

President William Ruto is currently on the spot with citizens waiting to see whether he will reorganise his government and reshuffle his Cabinet as promised on Friday he announced new austerity measures.

The President who addressed the nation from State House following two weeks of protracted demonstrations by Gen Zs who are demanding for change in government, promised to make changes in tandem with his cost-saving measures.

Dr Ruto raised a lot of hope among citizens on his commitment towards the reorganization of his administration when he announced the decision to suspend the filling of 50 positions of Chief Administrative Secretaries and the reduction of the number of advisors in government by 50 per cent.

“47 state corporations with overlapping and duplicative functions will be dissolved resulting in the elimination of their operational and maintenance costs with their functions being integrated into the respective line ministries with their staff transferred to ministries and government agencies,” said Ruto.

When he chaired a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday last week, the President not only read the riot act to his executive but he promised a purge. Those in the know told The Standard the President will trim his Cabinet to 15, including the office of the Attorney General, a move that will see ministries merged.

Under pressure

In Friday’s pronouncements, the Head of State also scrapped budgetary allocation to the offices of the First Lady, the Spouse of the Deputy President and the Spouse of the Prime Cabinet Secretary besides removing budgetary provisions for confidential budgets in various executive offices including his own.

“These measures will be followed by changes in government that I shall be announcing shortly,” added the Head of State.

Ruto is under pressure to fire some of his Cabinet Secretaries for either engaging in corruption or exhibiting arrogance. 

Some of them have been accused of getting involved in politics and participating in fundraisers contributing millions of shillings raising questions on their sources of income less than two years since they assumed office.

Prof Macharia Munene who teaches History at the United States International University-Africa thinks the President could be facing internal conflict on whether to disband or reshuffle his Cabinet as earlier promised.

According Prof Munene, the President is facing this dilemma since most of those serving as a Cabinet Secretaries are his personal friends and played a major role in his election in August 2022 and he may need them for his re-election in 2027. 

“The President is facing an internal crisis on how to balance national and personal interests as far the reconstituting of his Cabinet is concerned as promised to Kenyans. Some of this Cabinet Secretaries seem to have some hold over him over matters only both parties know,” said Munene.

Cabinet Secretaries Mithika Linturi of Agriculture, Susan Nakhumicha (Health), Kipchumba Murkomen (Transport), Ezekiel Machogu (Education), Moses Kuria (Public Service) and Energy’s Davies Chirchir are among those who have faced the wrath of Kenyans in the manner they handled their respective dockets.

Linturi survived an impeachment process against him in Parliament after being saved by a committee of 11 members despite majority MPs recommending his removal over fake fertilizer scandal which left Kenya Kwanza administration hard pressed to explain how it happened.

He faced accusations of gross misconduct, gross violation of the constitution and committing a crime under national law and risked becoming the first one in the current administration to be removed from office if parliament had impeached him from office.

Linturi who appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee in April denied the existence of fake fertilizer saying there was reported a case of 3,000 bags of substandard fertilizers in the market which the ministry was ready to compensate the affected farmers.

Nakhumicha has faced criticism in the manner in which she has handled the strike of medical staff working in public health facilities where services were completely paralysed. 

The CS who appeared before the National Assembly plenary to answer questions in April said her ministry was ready for Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations while participating in discussions to reach a solution to the crisis that has threatened to cripple the health sector.

Kenyans’ wrath

Machogu attracted the wrath of Kenyans for postponing opening of schools in May at midnight - a move that inconvenienced students who had travelled to various schools yet he had an opportunity to make that decision earlier.

The CS came under intense criticism from political leaders and Kenyans who felt that he had lost the grip of his ministry since they could not understand why he could make such a crucial decision at the 11th hour when he had ample time to do that.

Kuria’s proposal to have all public servants put on contract met opposition with politicians and workers’ unions saying that they will not allow such an unpopular decision that will claw back gains made in the job market to be adopted by the government.

Kuria had during a press conference to address the ongoing doctors strike in April threatened to table a proposal to convert all public servants’ employment terms from permanent to contractual terms and that a review of the wage bill had established that it was not sustainable having all employees on permanent terms. “During the wage bill conference it was established that 1 million public servant took home over 50 per cent of our tax revenue, something is terribly wrong when 1 million people take 50 per cent of our tax revenues while 53 million people take home the remaining 50 per cent,” said Kuria.

From his corner, Chirchir has been on the spot over the frequent nationwide power blackouts that have been witnessed in the last one year. The CS blames the outages on insufficient investment in infrastructure. 

According to Chirchir, the country has not had any major electricity system upgrades for the past six years hence the plans to build a new 33KV line between Narok and Bomet to prevent constant power blackouts. 

Murkomen has been on the receiving end over the blackouts and leaking roof witnessed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is the country’s gateway.