Deputy President William Ruto’s allies were the biggest casualties in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s mini Cabinet reshuffle.
The changes announced Wednesday by State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena are another indicator that Kenyans are yet to see the last of the cold war between the country’s two most powerful men.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, a key confidant of Dr Ruto, was yesterday moved from the plum Energy ministry to become the new CS for Devolution, a less glamorous position, despite having survived previous purges that saw the exit of Deputy President William Ruto’s point men.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, another Ruto ally, had the key departments of Social Protection and Pension and Senior Citizens hived from his ministry leaving him in charge of only labour.
With his government on the spot over record-high costs of fuel and electricity, the President sent Mr Keter packing from the Ministry of Energy on a day he released a report on cutting electricity bills that have seen the cost of living rise beyond the reach of many Kenyans.
The Presidential Taskforce on Review of Power Purchase Agreements was constituted in response to calls from the public to address concerns about the high cost of electricity for both individual consumers and businesses. Its report recommends a cut in cost of power by a third, which the President said he wants implemented by Christmas.
Some of the key findings in the report include the vast difference between KenGen and Independent Power Producer (IPP) tariffs, electricity dispatch allocations and lack of proper demand forecasting and planning. Other issues are: risk allocation imbalances between Kenya Power and IPPs further exacerbated by poor contract management frameworks, and an uncoordinated institutional architecture that contributes to high operational costs passed on to consumers.
Kenyans are currently paying dearly for electricity courtesy of bad laws and conspiracy between cartels in the energy sector and top civil servants.
Kenya Power has been on the spot for continuously reporting losses attributed to inflated tenders and the existence of expensive Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) despite enjoying a monopoly in the distribution of electricity.
Mr Keter has been in-charge of the Energy ministry since 2015, although the Petroleum docket was hived off and combined with the Mining ministry in 2018 and handed over to John Munyes.
Kenya Power buys electricity from KenGen at an average cost of Sh5 per unit, while some IPPs are making as much as Sh150 per unit, raising questions on the lopsidedness of the agreements.
“The President examined and welcomed the recommendations of the Taskforce that establish a path towards the reduction of the cost of electricity by over 33 per cent within four months,” a dispatch from State House indicated.
The consequence of the proposed interventions is that a consumer who previously spent Sh500 per month on electricity shall by the end of December 2021 pay Sh330 per month, a reduction that will be achieved through the cutting consumer tariffs from an average of Sh24 per kilowatt hour to Sh16.
A high placed source at the Office of the President yesterday said Mr Keter and his outgoing Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge were blamed for failing to come up with solutions to help Kenyans out of the high cost of energy.
Mr Keter takes over the Ministry of Devolution from Eugene Wamalwa, who becomes the new Defence CS, replacing Ms Monica Juma.
Revealingly, the President whittled down the scope of the Ministry of Devolution, peeling away some well-funded departments. The department of Special Projects and that of Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) were hived off, leaving the ministry with no State corporation.
Ms Juma, who is primed to become the next secretary-general of the Commonwealth, will shoulder the immediate task of ensuring that the cost of electricity is reduced by Christmas in line with the President’s order.
Another big winner in the reshuffle was Ms Margaret Kobia, on whose Public Service portfolio was added the ASALs and Social Protection, Pensions and Senior Citizens departments. The changes raised the status of Ms Kobia’s ministry to arguably that of the second most-powerful after Interior.
The department of Special Programmes was transferred to the State Department for Social Protection, Pensions and Senior Citizens Affairs, which has now been renamed as the State Department for Social Protection, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.
Mr Gordon Kihalangwa, previously PS for Public Works, is the new PS at the Energy ministry, taking over from Mr Njoroge, who moves to the department for Transport.
Mr Kihalangwa’s replacement at Public Works is Mr Solomon Kitungu, while Mr Nelson Marwa remains at the State Department for Social Protection, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes with its enhanced powers.
The changes also signal that President Kenyatta is keen on his Cabinet secretaries executing his policies and projects during his last few months in power.