National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Transport counterpart Michael Kamau have been ranked the top performers in the Jubilee Cabinet that was sworn into office six months ago.
Also scoring good marks in performance of their ministries are Foreign Secretary Amina Mohamed and Ms Anne Waiguru, who is in charge of Devolution.
On the opposite side, the security problems plaguing the country seem to have had a negative impact on the scorecard of Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku who, together with his Defence counterpart Raychelle Omamo, are holding the other end of the stick, with their dockets ranked bottom in performance.
Cabinet Secretaries with background in the public sector seem to outperform their counterparts from the private sector. All the four top performers — Mr Kamau, Mr Rotich, Ms Mohamed and Ms Waiguru — previously worked in the public service.
All the 18 Cabinet Secretaries and the State Law Office, including the top performers, however, scored below average in the survey conducted by the Sunday Nation among professional bodies, former cabinet ministers, governance experts and Members of Parliament.
Prof Karuti Kanyinga of the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Development Studies attributes the under-performance of the Jubilee Cabinet Secretaries to inexperience, most of them having come from the private sector with little familiarity with public service.
“The Narc ministers (after President Kibaki took power in 2003) made the right pronouncements not because of anything but the prevailing political environment and experience. Comparing the Jubilee team to the Narc ministers, there is an element of reversal. Some of the Cabinet Secretaries seem not to even understand the Jubilee manifesto,” said Prof Kanyinga.
According to experts in public administration, a majority of Jubilee Cabinet Secretaries who came from reputable international organisations, private sector and other institutions may take some time to find their footing in mainstream government with their impact and visibility a far cry from their stellar performances at their previous stations.
These include Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who was previously at the helm of NIC Bank, ICT Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who was the Eastern Africa representative for the State University of New York and EAC and Tourism Secretary Phyllis Kandie, who was a director, Investment Advisory Services, at Standard Investment Bank.
Industrialisation Secretary Adan Mohammed was previously Barclays Bank chief administrative officer overseeing 10 countries in Africa, while the Environment Secretary Prof Judy Wakhungu was the adviser to the energy sector management programme of the World Bank.
Similarly, despite their considerable experience in public institutions, Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir, Agriculture Secretary Felix Kosgey and Sports Secretary Hassan Wario have so far made little impact on Kenyans.
Prof Kaimenyi was previously the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs at the University of Nairobi, while Mr Chirchir was a commissioner with the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and also served as a general manager at the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation. On the other hand, Mr Kosgey joined the Cabinet from the Kenya National Highways Authority where he was the general manager, supply chain and support services. Mr Wario came from the National Museums of Kenya.
Also ranked dismally are former politicians that include Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi and his counterparts Najib Balala (Mining) and Mrs Charity Ngilu (Lands).
Mrs Ngilu’s ministry has been embroiled in a controversial hiring decision which found its way to Parliament. Mrs Ngilu was censured for breaking the law in creating directorates of Lands Administration, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works and appointing junior officers to take charge.
Asked to comment on the performance of the Cabinet so far, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spokesman, Mr Manoah Esipisu, said they would not engage in assessing themselves, a task he said belonged to the public.
“The government wishes not to judge itself. Let the public and media judge us,” said Mr Esipisu.
However, the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Mr Aden Duale, defended the Cabinet, arguing that the Secretaries had achieved more than those in past regimes in the short time they have been in office.
According to Mr Duale, those who are giving low ratings for the performance of the Cabinet Secretaries are two groups, namely “those living in the old system and competitors of the Jubilee coalition who do not wish to see the administration fulfill its pledges”. “The problem we have is that Kenyans are used to ministers who would be seen in funerals and political rallies. Kenyans are also used to the old system where they used to hear ministers make statements on the floor of Parliament. Currently we have chief executives and you don’t expect the chief executive of Safaricom or Airtel or East African Breweries at political rallies,” said Mr Duale.
The Secretaries are supposed to attend to State functions not political functions,” he said.
Mr Duale said Kenyans would be “shocked” at the achievements of the Cabinet when the Secretaries provide Parliament with their reports, though he conceded that “some have had issues” in reference to the woes of Mrs Ngilu who Mr Duale said had attempted to usurp the powers vested with the Principal Secretary and the National Lands Commission “and Parliament rejected that”.
Mr Duale said the Transport Secretary’s response to calamities has been outstanding while Foreign Secretary Ms Mohamed’s mobilisation skills are unrivalled. “She has been mobilising nations all over the world. It has never happened before,” he said.
Treasury boss Rotich’s top ranking is attributed to the Integrated Financial Management Information System that he is taking to the counties. Similarly, Mr Kamau’s handling of the Jomo Kenyatta Iinternational Airport fire and the several road accidents across the country, as well as the impending launch of a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Malaba, boosted his ratings.
On the other hand, the launch of the Sh6 billion Uwezo Fund by President Kenyatta in September and the counties beginning operations under her watch have underscored Ms Waiguru’s favourable ratings. Mr Lenku and Ms Omamo rank bottom for their perceived mishandling of the Security docket, in particular the Westgate terror attack, their invisibility and, often times, disjointed statements regarding their ministries.
Mr Kwame Owino, the chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a public policy think-tank, said it is “not secret now that the Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security seems not to have a lot of public confidence owing to the tragedy at Westgate. I am unsure whether it was poor communication or incomplete understanding of the situation but the performance was not good.”
Suba MP John Mbadi asserted that security had deteriorated under Mr Lenku’s and Ms Omamo’s watch to an extent that “the Westgate terror attacks can take place in the middle of the capital city, in broad day light and the disjointed responses that followed.”
“On this, they score very low,” Mr Mbadi said.
According to the legislator, Agriculture Secretary Kosgey had failed to put in place policies that would spur growth and alleviate food shortages.
Besides security, Mr Mbadi said Kenyans should also look at how the Jubilee Government has dealt with the cost of living, macro and micro-economic policies, devolution, infrastructure development and clear communication channels for Cabinet Secretaries.
In so far as lowering the cost of living and pulling Kenyans from poverty is concerned, Mr Mbadi said the government has done the reverse by enacting the VAT Act which had made access to food, clothing and shelter more difficult for the ordinary citizen. Related to this, he said, the macro and micro-economic policies of the government have failed to lower interest rates that would make loans cheaper and encourage investment.
Instead, he said, the government is borrowing more for non-productive sectors of the economy such as for the laptop project and, in effect, preventing private investors from borrowing because of the high interest rates.
“Are Kenyans better off under the Jubilee Government? My answer is no. This government, courtesy of the VAT Act, made life more difficult. There have been no deliberate government policies and efforts to reduce the overall cost of living,” he said.
But Mr Duale disagreed, praising Mr Chirchir, the Energy Secretary, for working hard to ensure the cost of energy comes down.
Mr Mbadi also said Mrs Ngilu has failed to show proof that Kenyans will have more houses while Devolution, which is under Ms Waiguru’s docket, has been impeded by retaining the much-criticised provincial administration in the form of county commissioners and regional coordinators.
Ms Kandie, he said, has been doing a commendable on EAC affairs and tourism docket despite her appointment having faced considerable resistance by Parliament.
Overall, the Suba MP said, the Jubilee Government scores three out of 10. “When you compare the Narc government and the current administration within the first few days, there were fundamental changes then such as the introduction of free primary education. Apart from the laptop project, which is anyway failing, nothing fundamental is taking place since Jubilee took over power,” he said.