President William Ruto finds himself in a tricky situation, caught between bringing down the government’s expenditure and meeting the interests of those who helped him ascend to power.
The problem will be specially compounded this month as he is expected to name persons to the post of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), whose retention has been challenged in court.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) went ahead and invited applications and has defended the position before the High Court.
President Ruto has already named 22 Cabinet secretaries, made four Cabinet-level appointments, and nominated 51 principal secretaries (PS), nine more than his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Taxpayers will fork out Sh412 million in salaries over the next five years for the nine extra PSs. The PSs will also draw more money in housing, travel and entertainment allowances, medical cover, and other perks.
Dr Ruto’s 22 CSs will gobble up Sh23 million every month in salaries for the next five years. They will also enjoy other payments in the form of housing, travel, and entertainment allowances, medical cover, and others.
While President Kenyatta had 61 embassies and consulates around the world, President Ruto has increased the number to 66, meaning the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will shoot up.
He has also increased the number of State institutions from 413 of the Jubilee administration to 443. The 30 extra parastatals will also need capitation from the National Treasury.
The filling of the CAS positions means that government expenditure will go up, although it is not clear if he will go with the number his predecessor, Mr Kenyatta, had – more than 22.
The CAS positions are part of President Ruto’s scheme to reward some of his allies who played an instrumental role in his victory and are yet to land any plum jobs. The return of the CAS is aimed at gaining more wiggle room in the appointments.
The position of CAS, which was introduced by former President Kenyatta four years ago, has previously been given to election losers and establishment allies.
With the PSC grading CAS at CSG 3, which is equivalent to job group V, it means that they will earn Sh765,188 in gross monthly salary. If President Ruto appoints 22 CASs, the taxpayer will have to fork out Sh1 billion in the next five years.
And with the additional nine PSs, the new pay structure the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) announced will cost Sh5.4 million more every month or Sh64.2 million annually for the next five years.
This will also apply in the place of CAS, or even more according to a source at the PSC.
CASs will also be entitled to allowances similar to those of Cabinet secretaries, hence increasing the government's wage bill.
The PSC appears to have ignored the court’s orders suspending the establishment of the position of CAS and instead encouraged Kenyans to apply.
This implies that since it is the Head of State who requested the agency to create this position, he seems to be under a lot of pressure to reward political cronies.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech, a senior member of President Ruto's circle, has come to his defence, saying the Kenya Kwanza government is committed to performance and efficiency.
“There is no country in the world that has no assistant ministers. The US has deputy secretaries and the UK has ministers of state. The 22 ministers envisaged in the Constitution can only do so much given that they are human, get sick, have families, and can't be in two places at the same time when Kenyans need them. Even principal secretaries are assisted in administration by principal administrative secretaries and secretaries,” said Mr Koech.
But Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi dismissed the comments, saying Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza had hoodwinked Kenyans.
“It is very clear that the much-talked-about plan by Kenya Kwanza was a ploy. Clearly, they have no coherent plan to deal with the country's problems including addressing high wage bills,” said Mr Osotsi.
President Ruto has rewarded individuals who contributed to his win, but some lieutenants are counting on being selected for CAS and ambassadorial positions after missing out on Cabinet roles.
They include United Democratic Alliance chairman Johnson Muthama, former Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, former Soy MP Caleb Kositany, former Migori governor Okoth Obado, former Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and former Mombasa senator Omar Hassan.