A deal between President William Ruto and the outgoing Labour Cabinet Secretary (CS) Simon Chelugui for the latter not to run for a political seat is said to have influenced his retention in the Cabinet.
Mr Chelugui's track-record, especially in the Water and Sanitation docket, has also been cited by people around President Ruto as part of the reason he was retained.
Major dam projects, including Sh20 Mwache Multipurpose Dam project in Kwale County, are credited to him during his stint at the ministry.
President William Ruto is said to have prevailed upon Mr Chelugui against resigning from the Cabinet to run for the Baringo governor’s seat in the August 9 poll.
Dr Ruto subsequently held meetings with elders from Baringo at his Sugoi home in 2021 New Year eve where he is said to have pledged to retain Mr Chelugui at the national level.
The two had a similar deal in 2017 when Mr Chelugui was talked out of running for governor and instead asked to face off with Kanu boss Gideon Moi in the senate race.
He lost to Mr Moi but landed a Cabinet slot when President Uhuru Kenyatta picked him to head the Water and Sanitation ministry. He was later moved to the Labour and Social Protection Ministry in a Cabinet reshuffle.
Also read: Uhuru ministers in Ruto Cabinet
He had unsuccessfully ran for Baringo governor in 2013 and lost to the county’s pioneer governor Benjamin Cheboi.
Mr Chelugui is the only Cabinet secretary retained by President Ruto after he was nominated to serve in the Co-operatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Development ministry.
Mr Chelugui’s ministry will be critical in investing in small businesses to help boost job creation through the so-called ‘hustler fund’ that is set to provide State-backed concessional loans to small businesses that have struggled to access financing from mainstream banks.
Outgoing Energy Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma was also retained as an adviser on national security, a Cabinet level appointment.
The rest of the Cabinet secretaries – some of whom openly campaigned against Dr Ruto – have all been sent home in the Cabinet shakeup.
Mr Chelugui is also said to have remained loyal to Dr Ruto at the height of the Jubilee Party break-up and was quietly involved in United Democratic Alliance (UDA) campaigns in North Rift, handling logistics.
Yesterday, Mr Chelugui told the Nation that he had not expected to be retained in the Cabinet.
“I am pleasantly honoured by the trust and the confidence that the President has in me. He has trusted me to deliver on his promises to the hustlers,” he said,
“All these people in small businesses need capital. The whole Kenya Kwanza campaign was on the platform of helping small businesses to grow and we are all committed to deliver on this,” he said.
Prof Edward Kisiang’ani – who was part of the team that crafted the Kenya Kwanza manifesto – said Mr Chelugui fits well in the docket to deliver President Ruto’s economic revival plan.
“His nomination to the docket means there is some level of competence that the President needed to tap. I was involved in the crafting of the bottom up economic model. Chelugui fits more there than where he has been before,” said Prof Kisiang’ani.
Former nominated MP David Sankok made reference to the pre-election talks but noted the main reason he was retained was because of competence and loyalty.
“The issue of being told not to run is there, but I would want to believe that it is more about his ability to discharge his duties well.
“Chelugui remained a loyal supporter of William Ruto while maintaining professionalism at his job, only performing his duties as prescribed by the Constitution. Other CSs became political errand boys without professionalism,” said Mr Sankok.
Similar views were shared by Prof Macharia Munene who said the President was looking for people who can deliver and at the same time be loyal to him.
“There are no records of when Chelugui was hostile to the President. Others may be competent but their loyalty was questionable. Others may be loyal but their competence is questionable,” said Prof Munene.