100 days later, Ruto ministers under pressure to deliver
They took office promising to deliver for the Kenya Kwanza administration that projected itself as a champion for the poor.
After about 100 days in office, some Cabinet secretaries have been in one crisis after another, others are struggling to fit into the job while some have hit the ground running.
President William Ruto has since set a June deadline for every ministry to achieve set deliverables, putting them – some in the Cabinet for the first time – under pressure.
Sources told the Sunday Nation that during the Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi, on Tuesday the President reminded the Cabinet secretaries that they have no choice but to deliver on their mandate.
He told them that the programmes they are coming up with have to be geared towards turning around the country’s economy.
Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and his Education colleague Ezekiel Machogu have been the most visible ministers to date.
Prof Kindiki has visited many parts of the country, especially those prone to banditry. Also visible is Roads, Transport and Public works CS Kipchumba Murkomen.
His ministry will also oversee the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), which was initially under the Interior docket.
Mr Murkomen has held meetings with governors in his office on projects undertaken jointly by the two levels of government.
Prof Kindiki has come face to face with homeland banditry and general insecurity since joining the Cabinet on October 27, 2022.
He has, on some occasions, visited areas to restore security, only for bandits to strike hours after he flew out.
“Prof Kindiki is doing a good job. He has even resorted to donning a security uniform to make a statement that he is in charge of the docket,” says Prof Macharia Munene, a history lecturer and political commentator.
“Security, Education and Health dockets are watched keenly by Kenyans. Kindiki has been out in the field giving a statement, but bad elements are still operating.”
Prof Munene says Mr Machogu is equally visible but not positively, largely because of the confusion surrounding the transition to junior secondary school and the recently released Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results.
Education experts raised credibility concerns over the results after a record number of students posted top grades, with some schools improving “abnormally”.
“He is in charge of a very problematic ministry. Machogu inherited some of the mess he is trying to fix,” Prof Munene says.
At the National Treasury, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u has been working to effect President Ruto’s directive to reduce expenditure by Sh300 billion. The minister largely appears to be failing.
Government spending is instead projected to increase by Sh33.4 billion in the financial year ending June to Sh3.39 trillion, the 2023 Draft Budget Policy Statement shows.
This comes despite doing away with Sh48.6 billion from the recurrent spending and lowering development expenditure by Sh181.6 billion.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Secretary-General and Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna says very little can be said of Prof Ndung’u “since Kenya’s economy is worse off after Dr Ruto became President”.
“We can only measure the performance of a government based on the improvement of people’s lives. Dwindling revenue from trade, high food and energy prices and overall high cost of living coupled with the fact that no jobs have been created mean this government has achieved nothing,” the senator says.
Mr Dismas Mokua, a political analyst, says Kenyans expect people-centred policies and programmes from the ministers, especially lowering the cost of living.
“President Ruto’s Cabinet is a mix of lateral and vertical thinkers, young and old, experienced and fresh blood who have hit the ground running. The Cabinet secretaries have cumulatively inspired confidence that they have the capacity and competence to deliver,” he says.
“Individually and collectively, they have pronounced national government programmes, policies and priorities that cumulatively will reduce the cost of living and create opportunities for all.”
The Treasury has informed the International Monetary Fund that it has little room to cut state spending after it inherited undisbursed expenditure of Sh89 billion from the last financial year and Sh61 billion spending that happened outside the budget during the last days of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s regime.
The place and influence of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi has not been felt.
Some Kenya Kwanza politicians say the influence may not be as visible as expected because it is a new office.
“He is doing well by all standards. It is a new office and it would be too early to judge his performance,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei says.
“Lawmakers are yet to see Mudavadi’s role as the link between the Executive and the two Houses of Parliament.”
Cooperatives and SMEs Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui says his ministry has rolled out the Hustler Fund. He says the update is a confirmation of the success of the programme.
“This administration was founded and anchored on the bottom-up economic model and my ministry is the heartbeat,” Mr Chelugui says.
Since its launch on December 1, the fund has disbursed Sh17 billion to 15 million Kenyans who have saved up to Sh850 million.
Some 14.2 million Kenyans registered for the Sh50 billion Hustler fund. Mr Chelugui says the fund would have savings amounting to Sh200 billion in five years, more than what the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) gets in the same period.
The minister is talking of plans to make coffee profitable to farmers by abandoning auctions in favour of better marketing in the international market.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, who has been tasked with the huge responsibility of digitising almost all government services, as well as rolling out the digital superhighway, has been working on a master plan to achieve his mandate.
The 100-kilometre high-speed fibre optic infrastructure is one of the many mega plans.
Mr Owalo told the Sunday Nation that his biggest achievement has been convincing the Cabinet to approve the digital superhighway and the installation of 61 hotspots in various parts of the country.
The idea is to have two hotspots per county by June.
“The establishment of 1,450 village digital hubs is in the early planning stage. The government has taken full charge of the E-Citizen platform: some 1,200 services are already on board, with about 30 others being brought on board daily,” he says.
“Additional on-boarding of services is ongoing. These include KRA revenue collection and the ministries of Health and Land.”
According to Mr Owalo, the ICT ministry is working with Estonia, India and Pakistan to establish if the country can adopt a national digital identity.
Mr Owalo says he intends to launch a national call centre.
“The Konza Technopolis has the facility and capacity to make operational a national call centre linked to ministries, departments and agencies to enable citizens to interact with the government on issues of interest or concern,” he says.
“Plans are at an advanced stage to launch the centre. It can be equipped with call logging, escalation and switching to relevant government entities for action.”
Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua has been restructuring the country’s foreign policy to take the shape of “economic diplomacy”.
“I continue to advance Kenya’s foreign policy agenda as informed and shaped by the philosophy of the bottom-up economic model, as well as by a whole-of-society approach,” Dr Mutua told the Sunday Nation.
“This has ensured that our country’s influence, relevance and visibility on the international stage continues to expand for the prosperity and security of our people.”
According to Dr Mutua, the peace initiatives the country is engaged in are some of his achievements.
On trade, the minister says visa-free travel to South Africa, the Sh1.12 trillion credit from South Korea and Sh500 billion British investment projects should be credited to his ministry.
His Sports colleague Ababu Namwamba cites the lifting of the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) suspension by the world governing body Fifa, averting the potential ban on Kenyan athletes, the Talanta Hela project, Kenya-South Africa Audio-Visual Co-Production agreement, admission of Kenya to the Africa Youthconnekt and the hosting of the Kenya innovation week among the achievements of his ministry.
“Football is fully back on the national and international scene. The ministry has rolled out the ambitious Football Vision 2030 that aims to see Harambee Stars play at the 2030 Fifa World Cup and Kenya hosting the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations,” he says.
“To stop the ban, the Ministry of Sports started a robust programme to save Kenya’s most valuable asset – the athlete. I directly engaged Lord Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, assuring him of the strong resolve by the government to wage an all-out war against doping, and committing Sh250 million over the next five years.”
Having taken office when the country was being bombarded by horrifying news from the Gulf, Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore says she has been working on the Labour Migration Management Bill, 2022 which has been finalised.
It is yet to be approved by the Cabinet. The Bill seeks to provide a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for orderly labour migration.
“Specifically, it seeks to promote safe, ethical and orderly recruitment of workers; protect jobseekers and migrant workers from exploitation; and promote opportunities for foreign employment for Kenyans,” Ms Bore says.
The CS adds that she has concluded eight bilateral labour agreements on the hiring and employment of Kenyan migrant workers.
They include agreements with the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria and his EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development colleague Rebecca Miano have been looking for new markets for the country’s products in and outside East Africa.
Ms Miano says having come to the office when drought was ravaging a huge part of the country, her ministry and donors have been looking for resources in an effort to provide assistance to families.
“The release and distribution of Sh3.2 billion to support relief food interventions, livestock off-takes, wildlife risk management and drought response coordination from September 2022 have been our achievements,” she says.
“We have also set up the ‘Wakenya Tulindane’, that has so far mobilised Sh600 million from the private sector for drought response.”
Mr Kuria and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi found themselves in the spotlight in their first month in office when they announced the importation of duty-free genetically modified maize.
They were almost sucked into a supremacy contest over their mandate before taking a low profile.
Farmers and millers want to see how the importation of duty-free maize and subsidised fertiliser will be handled by Mr Linturi.
The focus of Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has been ensuring universal health coverage takes off.
She and her team also want reforms at the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
“The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) will ensure the security of commodities to drive healthcare while the NHIF will deal with the financing bit, ensuring that money to take care of Kenyans’ health is available,” Ms Nakhumicha says.
“We have begun drastically reforming the two institutions to realign our goals. At the NHIF, we are shifting the thinking from just registration and taking care of individuals to households. Instead of covering an individual, where a spouse contributes and they are taken care of individually by NHIF, they will instead be taken care of as a family.”
She adds that her ministry would ensure healthcare is affordable to all. That, Ms Nakhumicha said, will entail working with other stakeholders to promote local manufacturers.
The CS added that under her leadership at the ministry, Kenya has been granted an opportunity to be a member of the International Vaccine Institute.
“My other plan is to ensure that we build at least 10 Level VI hospitals and having cancer centres in every county. We have launched three,” she says.
“We are also working with the Ministry of ICT to ensure the health information is digitised.”
Like many others in the opposition, Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni says the ministers have done nothing.
“They are yet to recover from the shock of their appointment. They all score one out of 10. It will take time for the CS to hit the ground running,” he says.