Ruto's advisers in eye of a storm for failing him

President William Ruto addresses the media after the signing of IEBC bill that was developed from NADCO report into law.  [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

As President William Ruto's appointments to various boards, task forces and envoys nominees are turned down, questions have emerged whether advisors give him proper brief.

Ruto last week announced the formation of a Presidential Taskforce on Forensic Audit of Public Debt but the High Court temporarily suspended the establishment of the same.

This followed a petition that challenged its mandate to oversight the public debt. The petitioners, Dr Magare Gikenyi and Eliud Matindi, argued that the work of auditing public debt is a constitutional function of the Auditor General.

The move by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to reject the appointment of its President, Faith Odhiambo, to the task force also left the government with egg on the face. This has raised questions about whether the nominees are first approached before the President publicly announces their appointment.

In yet another move that has exposed the President, Root Party 2022 Presidential running mate Justina Wamae’s move to turn down her appointment to a Health taskforce that he established five days ago. Wamae cited being on maternity leave as grounds of turning down the appointment.

Former West Mugirango MP Vincent Mogaka Kemosi’s also declined nomination as Kenya’s High Representative to Accra, Ghana in April.

This decision also left tongues wagging whether Ruto's advisors did due diligence before presenting the names to the Head of State.

While turning down the offer, Kemosi cited ‘compelling personal and family matters, a move that experts claim has exposed the President.

On the establishment of the Health task force, the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) opposed the move terming it as a duplication of roles since the mandate was under the purview of other constitutional bodies such as the Kenya Health Human Resource Advisory Council (KHHRAC) and the Kenya Health Professions Oversight Authority (KHPOA).

KMA said KHHRAC is charged with reviewing policies and establishing standards for posting interns, inter-county transfers of healthcare professions, welfare, schemes, and maintaining a master register while KHPOA maintains a duplicate register for all health professionals, promotes and regulates inter-professional liaison, resolves complaints from patients, arbitrates disputes besides ensuring that standards for health practitioners are upheld.

LSK has sued Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha for allegedly failing to operationalize the Kenya Health Human Resource Advisory Council under section 30 of the Health Act 2017. Also sued is the Attorney General.

Attorney General Justin Muturi has exonerated himself from blame, maintaining that his office advises the President and all the ministries only when the advice is sought.

Muturi’s revelation yesterday came even as the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei released a directive reducing the number of advisors in government by 50 per cent with immediate effect. “In that regard, it is notified that the President directed that the number of advisors in government be reduced by 50 per cent with immediate effect. By dint of that Presidential Action, the number of advisors assigned to each Cabinet Secretary has been revised from two to one. Additionally, the number of personal staff attached to you will remain as set out in the Public Service Commission guidelines being two (2) staffers,” Koskei said in a letter. 

Prof Peter Kagwanja, a reform strategist, and policy thinker on governance, security and African affairs, said the responses by the President to the issues affecting governance in his administration seem to be misplaced and have exposed him as a lone general.

He argued that the President's strategy could be aimed at ‘co-opting Kenyans who Ruto deem as his rivals’ a move he said, could have seen them decline their appointments.

Kagwanja said, Ruto could either have been misled by his advisors or he does not accept to be advised. “The silence by his lieutenants, who should be articulating his policy interventions, is deafening as they have left the President alone to face the government critics. What they don’t know is that a general does not go to the field, he waits for a trophy at home,” he said.

The silence on Ruto’s advisors has also caught the eye of some of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leaders such as Kirinyaga Women Representative Njeri Maina who candidly said the advisors were doing ‘disservice’ to the country asking them to reflect on how better to respond to the unfolding issues.

“Questions about the president receiving timely and appropriate advice have been raised. Especially given the recent unfolding events. It would be a disservice to this nation if the president is not adequately supported to deliver the plan to Kenyans," she said.

"That job weighs heavily on his shoulders and it is high time policymakers, advisors, implementers and other key players introspect on how better to respond to the issues plaguing our nation,” Ms Maina said.

President Ruto’s advisors issue has also seen Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua speak out accusing the National Intelligence Director Noordin Haji of ‘misadvising the President on the widespread opposition to the Finance Bill 2024’.

However Former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, an economist, believes the buck stops with the President claiming it was the President who ought to be blamed for his policies and not his advisors.

“It is completely wrong to blame advisors. Even if you don’t have advisors, the principal secretaries, and Cabinet Secretaries' main jobs is to advise the President since it is entailed in their job descriptions. It has nothing to do with advisors. The country should blame the real culprit who is the President since the buck stops with him,” Muriithi said in a phone interview.