Uhuru’s Cabinet secretaries, PSs in supremacy wars

Friday, November 1st, 2019 00:00 |
CS Monica Juma and PS Kamau Macharia.

 By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

The tug-of-war at the Sports ministry between Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed and Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia has exposed cracks in government departments, which could affect operations in key sectors and hurt service delivery.

Indeed effects of the bad blood between the two senior officials is already being felt by stakeholders, with several sports federations complaining of lack of scheduled funding from the ministry.

For example, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa accuses Kaberia of failing to disburse money meant for soccer management despite being directed to do so by his boss, the Cabinet Secretary.

The FKF boss says lack of funds has paralysed football administration in the county with teams lacking cash for key international engagements.

“We have met the Cabinet Secretary and she has been clear that the money is available. She has referred us to Kaberia who has simply refused to give us the money. We want the PS to come clear and tell us what problem he has with football,” Mwendwa charged.

Split staff

The tug-of-war between ministers and their PSs is not confined to the Sports ministry. At Foreign Affairs ministry, Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and Principal Secretary Kamau Macharia are at loggerheads, a situation that has split staff at the ministry into two camps.

Incidentally, the two Cabinet secretaries and the two PSs are former diplomats.

And at the ministry of Water and Irrigation, a testimony by PS Joseph Irungu before a parliamentary committee last month painted a picture of what appeared to be a breakdown of communication with his Cabinet Secretary.

A parliamentary committee last week fingered Kaberia as the face of troubles bedeviling the Sports ministry.

Dan Wanyama, a member of the Sports Committee, described the PS as the “chief cartel” in the ministry and warned Amina “to watch out”.

The two had appeared before the committee to update MPs on the status of nine stadiums under construction in line with the ruling Jubilee Party’s 2013 pre-election promise. 

During the meeting, the divisions came out as it emerged that the CS and Kaberia were not reading from the same script.

Amina appeared shocked to learn that Kinoru Stadium and Chuka Stadium were 75 per cent complete despite the fact that the two facilities are rarely used for key sports events compared to Nyayo Stadium (35 per cent complete) which has been hosting local league matches and athletics competitions.

Her view was that Nyayo Stadium and Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret (60 per cent complete) should have been given priority.

There have been claims that the PS was using the upgrade of Kinoru and Chuka facilities as a launching pad for a possible entry into politics come 2022.

However, Kaberia yesterday defended himself against all the accusations, including alleged insubordination and sabotage of his boss.

“There is no problem between us. Never. It is a something that is being peddled and it is not true. There is no way senior officers in a ministry can be at war yet it is running smoothly. I don’t know whether a problem has existed at all,” said the PS.

He has insisted that sports federations first account for past funding before they can receive new allocations from the ministry.

At Foreign Affairs, differences between CS Juma and PS Macharia are common knowledge and have sometimes delayed important decisions.

A diplomat at the ministry who requested to speak under the cover of anonymity for fear of antagonising his bosses, blamed the cold war on egos and attitude.

“Having served as Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations while his boss was in Addis Ababa, Macharia considers himself the more experienced diplomat,” said the diplomat.

The PS played a key role in fighting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case at the International Criminal Court and, therefore, regards himself as a crucial player in government.

Juma is currently leading Kenya’s campaign for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council for 2020-2022. Nairobi’s bid is, however, facing stiff competition from Djibouti, despite winning endorsement of the African Union.

At the Water ministry, PS Irungu last month told MPs that Deputy President William Ruto prematurely launched a Sh5.3 billion irrigation project without the knowledge of the line ministry.

This was in reference to the launch of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation and Flood Mitigation project on June 7 although it was not ready for commissioning.

“There was no contact between the DP’s office and my office. Even my project engineer was not there,” Irungu told a parliamentary committee.

He, however, indicated his boss, Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, was present at the function.

“I cannot confirm that the Cabinet secretary was contacted because there was nothing in writing. Had I been asked whether it was okay to launch the project, I would have said it was not proper,” the PS said, pointing to a lack of synergy between the two.

Carey Orege, who served as Permanent Secretary in the Mwai Kibaki administration, blamed tussles in ministries on the new governance structure and egos.

“It is usually a clash of personality and egos,” he told the People Daily

Orege praised the past arrangement under the old constitution in which elected politicians were appointed ministers while bureaucrats dealt with policy formulation and implementation.

“The roles were clear under the old constitution,” he said. “The minister handled the political wing of the ministry while the PS dealt with the technical or executive part. In the current arrangement both the minister and principal secretary are bureaucrats.”

Under the old constitution, ministers were both members of the Executive and the Legislature. However, the 2010 Constitution created a separation, dictating that MPs should not be appointed to the Cabinet.

“There is an overlap of duties. The technical side should be handled by the principal secretary. Their roles should be divorced,” said Orege.

Mwange Mutuse, the Machakos County Government chief of staff, says such conflicts affect decision making and service delivery.

He cited the conflict between Governor Alfred Mutua and his deputy Bernard Kiala during Mutua’s first term.

“You end up concentrating on sideshows and fire fighting instead of creating synergy; you work as you cover yourself,” said Mutuse in an interview.

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