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Tension as President Ruto calls for Cabinet retreat over poor performance

President William Ruto (left) chairs a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi, on January 15, 2024. 

Photo credit: PCS

Anxiety has gripped Cabinet and principal secretaries after President William Ruto convened a retreat to review their performance since they assumed office.

A dispatch from State House following Monday’s Cabinet meeting indicates that the retreat is planned for early February.

The planned second annual retreat has triggered a flurry of activities following the formation of a steering committee chaired by Public Service, Performance and Delivery Management CS Moses Kuria that has been tasked to do a report on the achievements of each department for tabling during the crucial meeting in Naivasha.

It comes after a similar meeting held in Nanyuki in January last year, where the President set ambitious six-month targets for each of the ministries. Some of the targets set for the CSs are yet to be achieved, sparking fears of a looming Cabinet reshuffle.

While President Ruto has so far not dropped anyone from his Cabinet, he has publicly registered his frustrations with some of the officials, accusing them of being clueless about their roles. A mini-reshuffle effected in October saw some CSs and PSs shifted to other dockets, a move his allies described as a warning shot to non-performing officials.

Late last year, the President held a two-day meeting with the CSs in Nairobi’s South B, months after they signed performance contracts detailing their set targets.

While speaking at State House during the signing of the contracts, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua warned the officials that it would no longer be about political friendship with the President but performance.

"I want to urge you today when he (Ruto) is here, please perform because the President has a contract with Kenyans, and it is your performance that will assist him in fulfilling that contract," he said.

Mr Kuria on Wednesday told Nation he has been meeting with his colleague to review their achievements in the past 14 months.

He said the engagements with various ministries will form the basis of a report to be tabled during the retreat.

On Tuesday, Mr Kuria met with East African Community (EAC) CS Peninah Malonza and Attorney-General Justin Muturi after similar engagements with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Sports CS Ababu Namwamba and Labour and Social Protection CS Florence Bore over the past couple of days.

An invite to newsrooms for a ministerial briefing by Malonza’s office was cancelled, pointing to the building tensions.

During the Nanyuki retreat, President Ruto gave out six-month targets to each of the CSs. Dr Ruto is said to have mandated the ministers to set targets, in clusters of ministries in different sectors, based on five key pillars; agriculture; universal health coverage; a digital superhighway economy; access to affordable credit; and manufacturing and value addition.

The Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, which is under Mr Mudavadi, was tasked with coming up with a plan to raise diaspora remittances from Sh360 billion to Sh1 trillion in five years.

During the meeting with Mr Kuria, the ministry listed increased diaspora remittance from $950 million in quarter three of 2022 to $1.073 billion under the same period in 2023.

The ministry also listed the acquisition of 15 diplomatic properties abroad and a Sh41 billion funding to upgrade the UN Environmental Programme headquarters in Nairobi as some of its major achievements.

Defence CS Aden Duale and Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) chairperson Lieutenant General (Rtd) Jackson Kasaon on Tuesday signed an e-contract designed to ensure the ministry can assess the performance of the commission.

Mr Duale announced plans to maximise profits and ensure that livestock farmers who supply their animals get their payments promptly.

ICT CS Eliud Owalo was tasked with ensuring the success of the initiative to digitise government services by June last year, setting up 25,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, and the revival of the loss-making Postal Corporation of Kenya.

National Treasury CS Njuguna Ndung’u was tasked to reduce the budget deficit by Sh300 billion for 2023-2024 fiscal year as well as meet the ambitious tax revenue target by President Ruto.

Ms Bore was tasked to find jobs for Kenyans in foreign lands. President Ruto had also directed Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen to freeze new infrastructure projects.

The CS was also directed to audit billions of shillings in pending bills and come up with modalities of payments. The targets for the Transport ministry included the revival of stalled projects using a proposed Infrastructure Bond and budgetary provisions.

Recent opinion polls have, however, shown dismal performance by some of the CSs. A survey by Tifa Research rated Energy CS Davis Chirchir at 19 per cent, being the worst-performing member of the Cabinet.

Other CSs rated lowly included Aisha Jumwa (Gender) at 23 per cent, Prof Ndung’u (Treasury) at 24 per cent, Zacharia Njeru (Water) at 24 per cent and Alice Wahome (Lands) also at 24 per cent. Dr Ruto has, however, defended some of them, dismissing the credibility of the opinion polls.

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki (65 per cent), Mr Mudavadi (62 per cent) and Education CS Ezekiel Machogu (58 per cent) were rated as top performers.