PS list sparks debate on ethnic, regional balance
President William Ruto was yesterday headed for yet another political storm after he unveiled a list of his nominees for the position of Principal Secretary that fell short of regional and gender balance and also gave short shrift to young people.
Instead, the list that also appeared to have fallen short of the requirement on diversity tests, exposed the President as a man struggling to navigate a delicate balancing act between rewarding political loyalists — particularly from his and his deputy’s Rift Valley and Mt Kenya bedrocks on the one hand and professionals on the other.
And in what appears to be his determination to keep his promise to Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula — the President’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance allies, he rewarded western Kenya with six nominees.
And unlike his predecessor, retired president Uhuru Kenyatta who had 42 State departments, President Ruto increased his to 49, with two principal secretaries earmarked for the Office of the Deputy President. This, in effect, brings the total number of the principal accounting officers to 51.
Out of the nominees unveiled yesterday, 39 were male — translating to 77 per cent of the appointments — while 12 were female, accounting for 23 per cent of the nominees. Cumulatively, this fell short of the constitutional threshold of the one-third gender rule and also on President Ruto’s pre-election promise of ensuring a 50:50 gender balance in government appointments.
Complicating the situation further for the President, 22 of the nominees, which translates to 43 per cent, are from the two regions; Rift Valley and Mt Kenya, both of which overwhelmingly supported and voted for him on August 9, 2022. Upon assuming office, Ruto said he would be a president for all but yesterday’s appointments suggest that he favours the regions that backed his presidential bid.
Thirteen of the nominees are from the Rift Valley region while 11 others are from Mt Kenya. These accounted for 51 per cent of the appointments, with all the other regions and communities left to share 49 per cent of the slots which were picked from 477 applicants shortlisted by the Public Service Commission (PSC) from a total of 9,154 applicants.
Professor Macharia Munene, a historian and a political analyst, said several factors were at play in the selection of the nominees — ranging from loyalty to expertise — and although the President had to consider gender, he was unable to attain the gender rule threshold.
Further, Prof Macharia said the President also had the burden of ensuring that he rewarded politicians and professionals allied to him. He also retained a few senior civil servants, which can ensure continuity in key dockets, such as education.
“The list is a mixture of politicians and experienced bureaucrats, which was expected because the President had politicians to reward for standing with him, and also to ensure he has people who are supportive of him and his agenda,” Prof Macharia told People Daily.
“He had to ensure he got experienced and efficient professionals, and given that the PSs are accounting officers and also policy makers, some politicians are professionals also. As for the gender, he tried but he did not attain it because it is below the required two thirds rule”.
Though the PSC did the vetting and shortlisting, Macharia said an individual’s relationship with the President was a major factor in influencing appointment.
“If he (Ruto) knows you it helps,” he said.
The list, which will now be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration and approval, comprises political rejects in the last election, such as Nixon Korir who lost his re-election bid in the Lang’ata parliamentary seat. Also in the list is former Laikipia West MP Patrick Mariru and former Nairobi deputy governor Jonathan Mueke who failed in the Laikipia and Kitui governorship races respectively.
Also on the list is Prof Julius Bitok, who had expressed interest in the Uasin Gishu governorship, Ruto’s former legal advisor, Dr Korir Sing’oei, who had shown interest in Trans Nzoia’s governor seat but quit prematurely, and Beatrice Inyangala, who was Cleophas Malala’s running mate in the Kakamega governor election, which they lost. Similarly, John Ololtuaa — who had eyed the Kilgoris parliamentary seat — as well as Busia Woman Rep hopeful and UDA county coordinator Susan Mangeni have been picked. Mangeni is a journalist by profession.
Korir was picked as PS in the Lands, Public Works and Urban Development docket, which is headed by Cabinet Secretary Zachariah Njeru. He will be in charge of the department of lands and physical planning, while Mariru is headed to Defence, under CS Aden Duale.
Mueke will be in charge of sports and art department in the Youth, Sports and Arts ministry. Ruto also retained six PSs who served in retired President Kenyatta’s government; Northern Corridor Development PS Belio Kipsang who has made a return to the Basic Education department, Charles Hinga has been retained in the housing docket, devolution’s Julius Korir is headed to the Office of the Deputy President, Harry Kimutai remains at Livestock Development, while PS Labour Peter Tum has been moved to head the department for Medical Services. Former Environment and Forestry PS, Dr Chris Kiptoo, is headed to the National Treasury.
Also in the list are loyalists among them President Ruto’s former advisor, Geoffrey Kaituko, whom he has picked for the labour and skills development department, political analyst, Prof Edward Kisiangani, who was among members of his campaign think-tank, (broadcasting & telecommunications under the Ministry of ICT and former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ICT director James Muhati, who is set to be one of the two PSs under CS Njuguna Ndun’gu at the National Treasury.
Juma Mukhwana — currently the Kenya National Qualifications Authority Director-General — will work with former Gatundu South lawmaker Moses Kuria in the Trade and Industry Ministry, which also has Abubakar Hassan earmarked to be in charge of the investment promotion department with Alfred K’Ombundo heading the trade department. The president has also plucked some nominees from government parastatals, among them Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) Regional Director, Eng Mungai Mbugua whom he has nominated to serve in the roads department under CS Kipchumba Murkomen. Dr Paul Ronoh, acting CEO at ICT Authority, has been proposed to the water and sanitation department under CS Alice Wahome.
Former West Pokot County Secretary Joel Arumonyang was picked for State Department for Public Works while former Nakuru County Executive Committee Member for Water, Eng Festus Ng’eno, was proposed to head the State Department for Environment. Gitonga Mugambi who is the Chief Executive Officer at the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) is slated to head the State Department for Irrigation while Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) boss Kello Harsama is headed to State Department for Crop Development.
Interestingly, Dr Esther Thaara Muhoria who was nominated to serve as Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education in the department of Technical and Vocational Training Institutes (TVETs) was yesterday sworn in as the Embu County Secretary. It remains to be seen if she will decide to retain the county job or resign to serve in the lucrative position in the national government.