Simon Chelugui was the richest minister in Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet

Simon Chelugui

Cooperatives & SMES CS nominee Simon Chelugui is being vetted by National Assembly  Committee on Appointments at Parliament Buildings on October 22, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Labour Cabinet Secretary Mr Simon Kiprono Chelugui was the richest Cabinet Secretary in former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet.

When he appeared before the National Assembly’s Committee on Appointment (CoA) for his vetting as Water and Sanitation CS in 2018 months after the August 8, 2017 General Election, Mr Chelugui declared his net worth as Sh796 million.

When he appeared before MPs today for his vetting, he put his net worth at Sh993 million, which is Sh197 million more than he accrued in the last slightly more than four years of his service in Cabinet.

Mr Chelugui is the only Cabinet Secretary to be picked by President William Ruto to remain in the Cabinet following his nomination for the Cooperative and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (MSMES).

If approved by the National Assembly for the appointment, Mr Chelugui will be the only surviving retired President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet Secretary.

Sh50 billion Hustler Fund

Nonetheless, he will have the challenging task of spearheading the implementation and rollout of the Sh50 billion Hustler Fund, a key feature in President Ruto’s campaign that among others aims at setting up occupational schemes for trades such as, boda boda riders and Mama Mbogas.

So, how did he survive the transition to President Ruto Cabinet?

“You remember that during the campaign ahead of the August 2022 general election he was the only CS who maintained faith with President Ruto even as he ensured that he remained professional,” says Mr Amos Nyasani, a political analyst and governance expert.

At the time, President Ruto was the Deputy President.

Mr Nyasani describes Mr Chelugui “a shrewd political schemer.”

“He tactfully waded through the rough and tumble of politics, at a period in which a bitter fall out in the Jubilee administration happened,” Mr Nyasani says. 

It is this trait that insiders say saw him survive an onslaught waged against Ruto allies during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term and the political turbulence occasioned by the bitter occasioned by the fallout.

In January 2020, former President Kenyatta transferred Chelugui from Maji House (Ministry of Water) to the less lucrative Ministry of Labour in a mini-reshuffle of the cabinet.

Barely eight months later, President Kenyatta transferred the Social Protection function from the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of Public Service in reorganization of government as succession politics took centre stage.

Chelugui, 51, holds a Bachelors of Commerce degree from University of Nairobi and a Master’s degree from the same institution. Chelugui rose to fame after giving immediate former Baringo senator Gideon Moi a run for his money in the 2017 poll. 

20-years work experience

He has more than 20-years work experience in corporate governance, policy formulation, monitoring, reviewing implementation and technical policies in water engineering, finance, investment and strategic management.  

Mr Nyasani says that Mr Chelugui was Ruto’s biggest ally in Uhuru’s cabinet “who operated intelligently by seemingly keeping off the political turbulence that marred Uhuru’s final term in office.”

In December 2021, Ruto persuaded Chelugui to drop Baringo governorship ambitions to help him at the national arena; during the meeting at Ruto’s Sugoi home, the then Deputy President described him as an invaluable player in his team.

Chelugui has previously worked at the National Government Development Fund (NG-CDF) (2008-2012) as director and also in the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in a similar capacity from 2015 to 2017.

Some of the other key projects he presided over at the Water ministry include Chemususu Dam Water Supply which moved from 40 percent to 92 percent, Kisii-Nyamira pushed from 50 percent to 80 percent and completion of Siaya-Bondo water project among others.