Cabinet secretaries big let down to those they were chosen to serve

Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) are inclined to subjectivity. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Injudicious statements by top government functionaries point to a level of dysfunctionality in the Kenya Kwanza government.

There is no coherence in the manner of discharging ministerial duties and handling emergent labour disputes and attendant problems like the fertiliser scam. Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) are inclined to subjectivity; and are so inebriated with power, that some have become the judge, jury and executioner.

Turbulence in the health sector has exposed Health CS Susan Nakhumicha as one thrown into the deep end of the pool. Her feeble attempts to wiggle out of the tight corner where the medics’ strike has pushed her by claiming she was not a signatory to the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement came a cropper.

She tried bluster, but came out worse for wear after the striking doctors went for her. While CSs should be apolitical, Ms Nakhumicha doesn’t waste an opportunity to be in the company of politicians out on self-missions.

Glitches at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), first when there was an hours-long power blackout in December last year, a leaking roof and a recent fire outbreak at JKIA exposed Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen as one given to impetuosity.

In the first incident, he pulled rank, flexed his muscles and fired the airport manager instantly. In the second case, he formed a committee to investigate the cause of the leaking roof and then, tongue-in-cheek, went on to blame good roads for an increase in accidents in Kenya.

That he would insist on having a Transport Accident Investigation Bureau as an antidote to accidents instead of addressing the causes, which countless previous reports by presidential commissions and task forces have outlined, is unfortunate. If enforced, the Michuki rules have the power to stem accidents and save the country money that would be wasted on a new commission that adds no value.

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki recently suggested that there should be an age limit for issuing driving licences to end accidents. That was preposterous because there is no empirical evidence, at least none that I know of, that has established a link between the ages of drivers and accidents.

On the other hand, Prof Kindiki’s numerous visits to bandit-prone areas are wasted effort and demonstrate how ineffectual our security agents are against pogroms. Bandits in North run rings around our security agencies where and when they choose to without fear of repercussions.

In the midst of an uproar over fake subsidised fertiliser being sold through government agencies, even as the same government claims to be committed to improving Kenya’s food security, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi had the temerity to deny there was fake fertiliser in the market. The import of the denial is that there is a lot going on under his nose he doesn't know about.

It baffles that President William Ruto has not seen the need to intervene, or even comment on these issues that hurt his administration. CSs at sea in their own dockets have no business being there. They are an indictment of the culture of rewarding cronies and loyalists at the expense of technocrats ready to serve.

In the 1990s, President Daniel arap Moi brought technocrats into his government to turn around the economy, fight corruption and win back the confidence of donors who had given Kenya the cold shoulder.

The ‘Dream team’, as it was known, managed to usher in accountability in government, reform the civil service, improve the economy and win back the confidence of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The dream team hit the ground running and worked like a well-oiled machine. Dr Ruto should have his own dream team to turn things around. Barring that, the uninspiring team he has around him can only widen the growing chasm between citizens and a government in which they are losing trust.