Tuesday, January 6, 2009



The Standard
Published on 05/01/2009

A curious battle has been raging for months over actions taken and positions held by the President’s Permanent Secretary.

The way the fight pits the Office of the President against the Office of the Prime Minister belies regular reassurances that the partners in the Grand Coalition are "working well together".

The conduct of Cabinet ministers wading into this fight leaves much to be desired, with regular Cabinet leaks (illegal under the Official Secrets Act) and misleading statements being used in a public opinion offensive that began during talks between the coalition partners over "portfolio balance" and — more specifically — the placement of a proposed Cabinet Affairs ministry.

We believe this debate needs to be formalised or killed off.

Lands Minister James Orengo and others should stop hectoring us about it at public rallies if they have no intention of addressing the question in Cabinet or Parliament. The Ugenya MP accuses Muthaura of "undermining PM Raila Odinga". He said Muthaura was "meddling" in Government’s operations by "looking down upon the Office of the PM". The accusations arose from Muthaura’s identification of a 38-man team to hand over the disbanded Electoral Commission’s assets and affairs to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. They were not to "oversee electoral reforms" as claimed by Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi. Logically, as happened with, say, the handover of State House when Kibaki took over, the team includes past officials. That this has fed the ongoing war on Muthaura by the PM’s allies needs indicates it needs to be dealt with immediately.


Late last year, Orengo told a public rally that Muthaura was "exercising powers that did not belong to him" and that his office — Head of Civil Service — was "unconstitutional". But apart from being Civil Service head and Secretary to the Cabinet, Muthaura is PS Office of the President Cabinet Office under Section 22 (2) of Chapter Two of the Constitution. He is also the chairman of the National Security Advisory Committee, the highest-level security team in Government outside Cabinet.

Is Orengo taking us on a new tack on the delegated powers of the presidency? Is he making the plausible argument that Muthaura holds too many roles? Or is he wasting our time with attacks on an ‘unpopular’ personality?

There have been several conflicts between Muthaura and the Office of the PM that suggest a proxy war with the presidency.

When he wrote to his counterpart there, Dr Mohammed Isahakia, on communication procedures, he was roundly accused of "pretending to issue directions to the PM". This notwithstanding the fact that letters from Isahakia summoning ministers to meetings with the PM in the early days of the coalition sparked protests to State House. What hope is there for consultation on any issue when even basic house-keeping matters become fodder for personalised attacks?

Muthaura was accused of delaying the appointment of staff and setting up of the office of the PM just as he received a consultant’s report on the matter. There are also disagreements over the appointment of diplomats that have their roots in a statement the President’s PS issued "clarifying" the OP’s understanding of the National Accord and Reconciliation Agreement. Whether he is right or wrong, the PS should not be the target of attacks.


We believe the attacks are unhelpful because they fixate on one personality and avoid questions of how to make institutions in the Executive work better. The Cabinet that President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga agreed to did not have a Ministry of Cabinet Affairs in the Office of the PM. If this is a matter Orengo still wishes to pursue, there are avenues to do so.

Constantly bullying a civil servant publicly, however, especially when he is exercising his duties largely under the President’s direction, is unbecoming conduct for a minister. Muthaura has no public rallies at which to reply to Orengo. We say: Pick a fight with the man calling the shots or don’t pick one at all.


1. On Tuesday January 6, 2009, 0:59 AM , wamuyu gachina, Kenya wrote:

I could not put it better even if i tried. the popularity contest needs to end. Don't we have more important matters like corruption at the lands ministry for Orengo to deal with than a PS in another ministry? And pray tell, isn't there a need for a skeletal staff to hand over the office to the new electoral commission?

2. On Monday January 5, 2009, 16:52 PM , kingsbury, United States wrote:

Seems to me, Orengo a perennial oppositionist can't find a foothold in the very administration he helped construct. Pointed out in this editorial is what the office of the chief secretary does, yet most ignore those facts and find refuge in unnecessary yelling and hectoring those that are bound by rules and custom and cannot talk back. I would be more impressed if he bullied land grabbers.

3. On Monday January 5, 2009, 16:23 PM , Dr. John Were Onundu, Germany wrote:

It would be helpful if the author is known. Nonetheless, the article is written by an ignorant, educated fellow who uses propaganda without considering the tenets of democracy. There is a problem. Muthaura is a civil servant whose powers are none in the political arena. The back stops with Kibaki who uses him and holds to the wall like a coward. He (Orengo) should spill more beans on Muthaura.

4. On Sunday January 4, 2009, 19:40 PM , Ed, Kenya wrote:

You are wrong. If Hon Orengo is not given a chance to air his opinions during cabinet meetings, then he has every right to express his opinions through press during public meetings. Who is the author of this article anyway?

5.Sunday January 4, 2009, Frederick Ochieng'-Odhiambo, Barbados wrote:

Orengo's concern has been that the holder of the office is not sensitive to the spirit of the coalition government. It does not take too much imagination to realize that he is being used the way Samuel Kivuiti was.