President Uhuru Kenyatta has in the last few days been consulting widely his close knit circle of advisers as he seeks to replace disgraced Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge after they were charged with circumventing the law to preside over the loss of Ksh19 billion in the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal on Tuesday.
In his State of The Nation Adress (SoTN) to parliament in April, President Kenyatta erased any doubt that he would sack any cabinet member implicated in corruption, a clear indication that the goose is already cooked for the two money men who had distinguished careers before the dams scandal sunk them.
“As I have I done before, I undertake to act and remove from government any individual who will have a case to answer before court,” said the president in his SoTN address.
Treasury sources indicate that the President will name replacements for Rotich and Thugge any time from now given the sensitivity of their roles.
Being the nerve centre of the government’s financial affairs, the offices of the CS and PS National Treasury can’t be vacant for extended periods as any withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Fund requires their signatures.
It is unlikely that President Kenyatta will look outside his cabinet to fill the vacuum due to the legal requirement of having a new nominee vetted by Parliament. As it stands, the presidency is split down the middle and as such marshaling MPs to endorse the nomination of new faces is considered to be a very tedious process.
Political arithmetics, regional and gender balance, technical knowledge of the ministry as well as integrity are the factors that Uhuru will consider before replacing Rotich and Thugge. Unlike other ministries, the President cant name ‘just anyone’ to safeguard the country’s purse.
According to the sources, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua has taken over as Treasury Principal Secretary in the interim while Treasury Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Nelson Gaichuhie has been tapped to play the Cabinet Secretary role before substantive appointments are named.
Kinyua served as Finance PS in President Mwai Kibaki’s government and is one of President Kenyatta’s handlers as Head of Public Service. He is said to be well versed with government machinations, making him an extremely attractive proposition for his boss. The two also worked together when President Kenyatta was Finance minister.
Among the front runners for the CS role include Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, East African Community (EAC) CS Adan Mohammed and Justus Nyamunga, the Secretary, Budget and Policy Strategy at the Office of The President.
Odds are however stuck in Koimett’s favour since she has already worked at Treasury as Investment Secretary and also hails from Keiyo where Rotich comes from.
Koimett’s father, the late Nicholas Biwott, was also a close ally of Moi family and the President may want to reward his favourite son, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who is looking to gazump Deputy President William Ruto to the presidency in 2022.
The younger Moi enjoys close political ties with President Kenyatta while it remains an unwritten rule that president would be at home if the former succeeded him.
By appointing Koimett, it will be the clearest indication that the president does not fancy his deputy for the house on the hill.
Macharia has a background in finance and already runs one of the two ministries with the largest budgetary allocations. Before being appointed to Cabinet in 2013, Macharia was the chief executive of NIC Bank, which was recently merged with the Kenyatta family-owned Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA).
However, Macharia is one of the four Mt Kenya CSs that DP Ruto has accused of plotting to kill him which is likely to count against him if the second in command’s input will be seriously considered.
Mohammed also boasts of a background in finance having worked for Barclays Bank for over 15 years in different parts of the world before his appointment to Cabinet in 2013. When he was tapped, he was serving as CEO, Barclays Bank Kenya.
Just like the other front runners, he has something that is likely to work against him.
Mohammed was redeployed from the influential Industrialisation and Trade ministry to the less glamorous Ministry of EAC Affairs and Regional Development after contradicting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i over claims that sugar imported during the controversial duty free period contained mercury.
Albert Mwenda, the Director General, Budget, Fiscal and Economic Affairs, at Treasury is being considered for the PS role.