Anti-graft fight, ailing economy dominate Ruto talk with media

President William Ruto's round table interview with the media at State House Nairobi on December  17, 2023. [PCS]

President William Ruto has said during his 14 months in office, he has not called the Judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecution, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, or the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to direct them on how to do their work.

He said he will not engage in such actions.

Speaking during a televised interview by several media houses from State House Nairobi on Sunday night, the President reiterated that nobody will be prosecuted for political reasons or for not aligning with a particular political persuasion.

Ruto said he will ensure nobody hides behind the Presidency to commit crimes. He has directed Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Parliament, and his close allies that they will be held accountable if found engaging in corruption and other criminal activities.

“I have told Cabinet Secretaries that nobody should go to their offices saying the President has sent them to do this or that since I will never do that.

Special instructions

"I have also never called the Judiciary, DPP, DCI, or EACC and instructed them on how to manage particular cases they are handling; they can confirm that,” said Ruto.

The President said digitising government services is a crucial tool in the fight against corruption.

The number of services has increased from 350 to 14,000, with the e-services platform collecting Sh60 million daily. Ruto pledged that these figures are expected to rise further next year, ensuring that no money will be stolen from the government under his watch. 

During the interview, he made it clear that if anyone receives illegal and suspicious instructions, claiming to have been sent by the President, they should inform the appropriate authorities.

Ruto described the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal case as a fraud, alleging that it was orchestrated to settle political scores.

He said senior individuals in the Uhuru administration crafted the fraudulent case, leading to the court terminating the cases due to the absence of witnesses.

Last week, the court cleared former National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.

“Kimwarer and Arror dams cases were fraud cases used politically. We do not want political cases; I do not want investigative agencies to help me through political cases. I will deal with Kenyans in the best way that I know, and I will not want to see such cases that are aimed to victimise innocent Kenyans during my time in office,” said Ruto.

Sh40 billion loss

The President said the government was set to lose Sh40 billion when the contractors of Kimwarer went to court since they had not committed any crime.

Ruto said they had to negotiate with Italian contractors to withdraw the arbitration cases, which had remained in court for three years. He expressed bewilderment at how Arror and Kimwarer contracts, signed at State House before two heads of government and claimed to meet the required conditions, could be dismissed.

The President revisited the thorny issue of the privatisation of state corporations, stating that 287 government agencies were consuming Sh 250 billion.

He said saving Sh80 billion from their operational costs would be significant, leading to the amendment of the law to facilitate privatisation, mergers, and closure of underperforming entities.

“Kenyatta International Convention Centre is very sentimental to Kenyans, with the building valued at Sh30 billion last year generating a paltry Sh29 million.

"We had to refurbish it at the cost of Sh1.8 billion to make it ready for use during the Africa Climate Change Summit last year. This is a building that can earn the country Sh3 billion annually if well utilised,” said Ruto.

The President expressed the intention to secure a strategic investor for KICC to ensure it generates the revenue it is capable of. He said the 50-year-old building should have its conference facilities upgraded to attract international conferences, subsequently boosting other businesses like hotels in the city center.

Ruto said the Kenya Pipeline Company was worth Sh300 billion, but the government had been receiving between Sh200 million to Sh1 billion annually. He said that if well-managed, the company should be earning the country Sh 30 billion every year.

To achieve this, strategic thinking is required, prompting the government to seek strategic partners to assist in its operation.

Generating revenue

“Kenya Pipeline Company has been tasked to give the country dividends of Sh5 billion this year, which is very little. Considering an asset valued at Sh300 billion, it should be able to give at least 10 per cent of its value.

"Every government asset should provide value to the shareholders, who are Kenyans,” said Ruto.

He gave an example of Safaricom Limited, which was a small department within Telkom Kenya 25 years ago and is now the largest company in Kenya with a value of Sh360 billion.

It has contributed Sh1.3 trillion to the government through taxes over the last 15 years and pays Sh 20 billion in dividends annually, creating 1.2 million jobs.

Ruto mentioned that Kenya Commercial Bank, which was valued at Sh 600 million in 1988, is now valued at Sh 120 billion. It has branches in seven countries, 12,000 employees, and 33 million customers, illustrating the value of privatisation and the government's potential to raise revenue through this approach.

“We are also looking for a strategic investor in the Bomas of Kenya to have conference facilities and three hotels constructed. This will make the national asset valuable.

"The government's move to find better ways of managing underutilised state agencies should not be demonised,” said Ruto.

Performing CSs

The President dismissed some opinion polls released by TIFA, placing five Cabinet Secretaries as not performing well, stating that the opinion pollsters are paid to sell a certain narrative.

Many of them had predicted that he would not be elected as President through their surveys last year, but he proved them wrong by being elected by Kenyans.

He said recent major blackouts in the country were not caused by Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir's failure to perform his job. The issue was not about the generation of electricity but the lack of investment in the last eight years for the transmission of power from the source, with transmission lines not in good shape.

Ruto said he had negotiated a facility of Sh9 billion with South Korea to construct 200km of transmission lines, addressing some of the issues causing problems. A concession with private sector players to build eight lines of 607km is also underway.

They will be paid by the government to transport power to where it is needed, preventing power shortages across the country.

“We are engaging investors for Sh180 billion to isolate five power sources so that the country cannot experience blackouts. The increase from 2.6 million to 9.4 million households connected to the power grid for the last 10 years should have been accompanied by a commensurate increase in power lines,” said Ruto.

Visa-free movement

He said the relationship between Kenya and its neighbours Tanzania and Uganda is good. The requirement for visa-free movement is only formalising what already exists, dismissing claims that the three states are engaged in some rivalry, which he said does not exist at all.

Ruto said Kenya is a different economy compared to Tanzania and Uganda. The country is considered a middle-income economy, while the latter two are in a different category.

Kenya imports significantly more for its industries than Tanzania and Uganda. Therefore, he argued, it is wrong to compare Kenya with them.

The President said he has only one mission, which is to change Kenya. He expressed his strong intention to achieve this goal, emphasising that it is never too late to do the right thing.

Despite acknowledging the challenges, he remained positive, saying it would be difficult but that he would continue. 

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