Ministers skip Ruto devolution budget meeting
The bad blood between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto over succession politics and running of government played out yesterday after Cabinet Secretaries skipped a key meeting convened by the latter.
The CSs had been invited to attend the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Committee Council (IBEC) meeting that had been convened by Ruto at his official Karen residence.
While Peter Munya (Agriculture), Ukur Yatani (Treasury), James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure), Prof George Magoha (Education) and Charles Keter, who was recently moved to the Devolution ministry, had been invited to the meeting, only Keter and his Principal Secretary Julius Korir and Dr Julius Muia (Treasury) showed up.
None of the other CSs sent representatives to the meeting.
While Yatani last evening told People Daily that he is on official duty outside the country, Macharia disclosed he had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta on a state visit to South Africa.
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai, Inter-Governmental Relations Technical Committee chairman John Burugu and the chairperson of the County Assemblies Forum Ndegwa Wahome also skipped the meeting that was chaired by Ruto.
Apart from Keter, Korir and Muia, the other high-profile central government personality in attendance was the Commission of Revenue Allocation boss Jane Kiringai.
Munya, who is one of the central figures in Uhuru and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s 2022 succession matrix, is among ministers who have been critical of the DP.
The CSs accuse Ruto of disrespecting the President and engaging in early campaigns. They have also accused Ruto of assembling a cabal of elected leaders who have been crisscrossing the country disparaging the Head of State.
Like Munya, Macharia is one of the four ministers from Mount Kenya region who the DP’s camp accused of plotting to assassinate the second-in-command, while Yatani has declared that he will support the Uhuru and Raila camp in next year’s General Election.
On the other hand, Ruto has asked CSs who have shown support for Raila, the Orange Demonstrative Movement (ODM) leader, to quit the government to ensure free and fair elections.
Yesterday, despite the ministers’ absence, the meeting went on with several governors in attendance.
The county bosses were led by Martin Wambora (Embu), who is the chairman of the Council of Governors, Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Anyang’ Nyong (Kisumu), Sospeter Ojamong (Busia) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), who recently moved to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that is associated with Ruto.
Others were Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Prof Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Stanley Kiptis (Baringo) and Dr Hillary Barchok (Bomet).
But while the rest of the governors remained behind to be part of a joint press conference that was addressed by the DP, Wambora and Nyong’o left before the briefing.
Ruto declined to engage in the debate over circumstances surrounding the meeting and individuals who had skipped it, and instead told reporters to stick to the agenda of the day.
But when pressed on how he felt after hosting a formal government meeting, he said he was performing his government duties but with a focus on field engagements through public rallies. The DP insisted that he has been undertaking his official duties “without any formalities”.
“The problem with you people is that you are used to seeing me wearing a tie whenever on official duty. But I have been working without these formalities,” he said.
He went on: “I have not started campaigns because the campaign date is yet to be announced by IEBC. What you have seen me do is my mandate. Speaking to the people directly, accessing the extent of government programmes, how far they have gone and receiving feedback from the public. So if you see me in most parts of the country, it is because I am the Deputy President and we have government projects all over the country.”
But Governor Muriithi, who is one of the county chiefs from Mt Kenya region that the DP has been unhappy with over their support for his main challenger Raila, revealed that given the sharp divisions in government, both national and counties, there were concerns that the meeting could turn chaotic.
“Some people feared that perhaps this meeting would be stormy…. we may have differences of opinion about a variety of issues, however, as leaders in this country at this time, we must be able to always, in the execution of mandates of our offices, be able to work beyond, over and above any differences of political opinion,” the governor who spoke on behalf of the county governments said.
The DP said his meeting with the governors and other national government officials had adopted recommendations of the National Treasury and Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) that counties receive an allocation of Sh370 billion in the current financial year. Ruto promised that Treasury will ensure the money is disbursed on time.
In what appeared like a thinly-veiled attack on the leadership style of his boss whom he has accused of abandoning the Jubilee manifesto to focus on changing the Constitution, Ruto said that with mounting debt and ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, some alternative sources of income were no longer tenable and, therefore, Kenyans should brace themselves for tougher times ahead.
“The situation we are in as a country, the debt levels, the impending drought situation we (need) to agree to tighten our belts to ensure that we do not exceed commitments that cannot be funded by government revenue and other measures that the government is undertaking in making sure both national and county governments function,” Ruto said.
The meeting gave the Laikipia County government a go-ahead to get an infrastructure bond of Sh1.16 billion at an indicative coupon rate of 12 per cent per annum repayable in seven years after it was confirmed to have met the requirements.
“The Controller of Budget, the Auditor General and the National Treasury convene a meeting with county governments to define and profile pending bills and how they can be tackled so that they do not impede development. The council recommended that the own source revenue bill and the conditional grants bill in Parliament be fast-tracked,” the DP added.
The meeting resolved that the National Treasury, Ministry of Petroleum and Mining and Parliament expedite the enactment of sharing of revenue generated from natural resources.
Similarly, the National Treasury was charged with the responsibility to coordinate with relevant ministries to actualise the procedure for sharing royalties from national resources with counties and local communities.
“The council recommended that counties should make their own determination of what a community is, and share the resources from their determinations,” a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting stated.
Ruto further disclosed that the government, through the Sugar Directorate of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) had