Monday, July 28, 2008



By David Ohito
July 28,2008
The Standard

Up to seven ministries are caught up in a whirlpool of divided loyalties by technocrats, with accusations of highhandedness by Cabinet ministers, as claims of tribalism, mistrust and suspicion continue to threaten the Grand Coalition Government.

In open turmoil are the ministries of Water, Home Affairs, Medical Services and Defence.

There is also disquiet at Immigration, Lands, and Treasury.

Cabinet ministers are being accused of breaking the law, and Permanent Secretaries of divided loyalties. But accusations of tribalism and claims of a "return to the bad old ways" are also being bandied around as deep-seated ideological differences between coalition partners burst into the open.

At Maji House, Water Minister Charity Ngilu is under attack over claims of arbitrarily effecting changes at the ministry’s parastatals contrary to the State Corporations and the Water Acts.

Ngilu cracked the whip allegedly because of stalled water projects and poor performance of water boards.

Mr Wang’uhu Ng’ang’a, the director of Water Services Regulatory Board, has written to President Kibaki complaining about the minister’s action. He has copied the letter to Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

It reads in part: "She has negated the purpose of reforms and turned State corporations to be departments of the ministry by sacking, employing and transferring officers from one parastatal to another without going through the Permanent Secretary or Head of Civil Service."

The parastatals affected are Tana Athi Water Services, Water Trust Fund, Water Services Regulatory Board, Rift Valley Water Services Board, National Water and Pipeline and National Irrigation Board.

Yesterday, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, the Medical Services minister, also came under attack over the manner in which he handled appointments to boards under his ministry.

Members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya, Kenya Pharmaceutical Distributors Association, Kenya Pharmaceutical Association and Kenya Treatment Access Network accused Nyong’o of recycling retirees.

Dr Kipkerich Koskei has been appointed to the post of Chief Pharmacist and Registrar to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, while Dr Richard Muga, a former Director of Medical Services, will be in charge of the Kenya Medical Agency Supplies (Kemsa) board probe committee.

"In this era of transparency, friendship should never be given a place to dictate the way appointments are made. Nor should political affiliation and rewards be seen to take centrestage in the Civil Service," Dr Kamamia Murichu, the chairman of the Kenya Pharmaceutical Distributors Association, told The Standard.

Nyong’o dissolved the Kemsa board two weeks ago and sent the chief executive on compulsory leave over claims of mismanagement.

At the Department of Prisons, Mr Gilbert Omondi, the commissioner, is under siege and could be on his way out. A flurry of letters between the Commissioner and Home Affairs PS, Dr Ludeki Chweya, captures the deep-seated problems between the two.

Sources say a hunt for Omondi’s successor is on and what is being used, according to insiders, is the report of the Marsden Madoka-led committee, which investigated causes of the warders’ strike.

In the Defence ministry, there is an outcry over recent promotion and retirement in the military, sources told The Standard. Matters have further been complicated by intense lobbying for Chief of General Staff General Jeremiah Kianga’s successor, with claims of nepotism and tribalism rife.

Those familiar with military matters say there are calls for the Defence Council to be scrutinised over claims of discrimination and lack of transparency.

For instance, information made available to us indicate that Deputy Army Commander Maj-Gen Jones Mutwii’s term in office ended last December, but the Defence Council extended it.

Interestingly, Maj-Gen P J Opiyo, who was tipped to take over from Army Commander Lt-Gen Augustino Njoroge, had sought an extension of his term. But this was turned down.

Last week, Armed Forces Training College Commandant Maj-Gen Geoffrey Okanga was retired.

Brigadier Simon Karanja, who was Okanga’s deputy, has been promoted and will replace Opiyo.

Insiders say the trend may affect professionalism in the force believed to be one of the most respected in the continent.

At Ardhi House, Lands Minister James Orengo, who blwe the whistle on Grand Regency sale, alleged that junior officers were instructed to hide information from him.

At Immigration, Minister Otieno Kajwang’ has been pitted against technocrats who have accused him of highhandedness.

This emerged in the middle of investigation on issuance of permits.

At the Treasury, audit queries are emerging over transactions of the Central Bank of Kenya and the Kenya Revenue Authority, amid reports that officials who question discrepancies are retired or transferred.

The divided loyalties, mistrust and suspicion that have played out beneath what on the surface is a smooth sheen of a working coalition Government has finally been thrust into the open.

It is increasingly clear that some top civil servants pay allegiance to their masters and political parties at the expense of service delivery.

New personnel seconded from the private sector, some unfamiliar with Government procedure and bureaucracy, are said to have compounded the problem.

Last Friday, Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno, while addressing PSs and accounting officers in the Civil Service, cautioned officials against allegiance to political parties.

"You might have been nominated to these positions by different parties or come from different ethnic groups, but at the moment, all problems facing the country are yours," the minister warned.

He told the officials that Cabinet decisions were based on their input and that Government risked stagnation if they failed to live up to the challenge.

The same day, the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura noted: "We need cohesion and teamwork to effectively deliver services to members of the public and clients."

So far, two meetings have been held to harmonise the coalition’s principles to those of the public service.

One was in May and opened by President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga.