By Jerry Okungu
July 17, 2013
Francis Kimemia has fully recovered from the shock he received when the Uhuru government subjected him to a parliamentary vetting which he survived by a whisker.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his cabinet line up, he said something that spoke volumes about the former Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the cabinet. He alluded to the fact that Francis Kimemia would be retained as Cabinet Secretary for purposes of transition.
To observers, this was taken to mean that Francis Kimemia was only retained temporarily as the President shopped around for a suitable replacement. It was probably after further consultations that the President changed his mind and chose to give him a soft landing as Cabinet Secretary.
It will be remembered that when Francis Kimemia took over as Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet following Francis Muthaura’s departure, that short period before the country went into elections, Francis Kimemia ruffled many feathers in the coalition government. Because of his uncomfortable relations with the Prime Minister’s office, he was accused by the ODM fraternity of working hard to ensure that Raila Odinga did not become the President upon Kibaki’s departure.
Although Kimemia vehemently denied these accusations, the perception that he was campaigning for State House friendly candidates did not go away. In fact it was strongly believed that his support for Uhuru Kenyatta only took preeminence when the first State House favourite, Musalia Mudavadi came a cropper following Mudavadi’s rejection by the Mt. Kenya MPs.
It will be remembered that during Francis Kimemia’s short term as Head of the Civil Service, he facilitated the recruitment of 47 county commissioners contrary to the constitution.
And even after the High Court nullified the appointments, those appointments were never revoked. The Executive still found a way to formalize those appointments through an act of parliament.
As politicians got busy campaigning for general elections, there were a few actions that the Head of the Civil Service undertook to prepare himself for appointment in the new regime. He was instrumental in the appointment of many ambassadors and high commissioners and several high profile promotions in the public service.
What perhaps Mr. Kimemia did not know was the fact that the Jubilee coalition partners had a different idea about the kind of government they had in mind. Obviously Kimemia may not have been fully privy to the size of government that would emerge and more so if the Head of the Civil Service position would be abolished and have those functions spread among the 18 Cabinet Secretaries who would in turn be in charge of public servants under them.
As things stand today, the Cabinet Secretary has one major function, to take the minutes at cabinet meetings and prepare minutes and agenda for the same.
It is true after so many years in public service, Francis Kimemia made many friends. Obviously he bonded with some more than the others. The spirit of comradeship could be the reason he has come out publicly to vouch for the reappointment of some former permanent secretaries into some public corporations.
If one looks at the current cabinet, of the 41 former cabinet ministers and over 50 permanent secretaries, only three former permanent secretaries became full cabinet secretaries while in the former cabinet of 41, only Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala survived the onslaught.
Obviously someone of Francis Kimemia’s caliber must be feeling lonely in a cabinet that may not feel his power. Therefore finding a way of staffing government corporations with his cronies will give him a sense of belonging since he will have people he can pick a phone and call in case he needs some favour to be done from time to time.
Whereas Francis Kimemia is in order to be mindful of his fallen colleagues, it is obvious that the Uhuru list that came out last with the final list of 26 principal secretaries, must have been received in bad taste especially be some of the PSs who were so sure of making it to the list.
Recalling top civil servants from forced retirement may have its own complications based on how they viewed their being sidelined during the initial appointments. Obviously some of them with active career skills like law, engineering, architecture or IT have moved on and started their own consultancies.
Indeed if the truth be said; one did not expect Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the man who put Kenya on the IT world map to be left out of the Uhuru –Ruto government either as Cabinet Secretary or as Principal Secretary considering his contributions to the IT penetration in Kenya in the last ten years.
Because of Bitange Ndemo’s initiative and enthusiasm, Kenya acquired multiple cyber optic cables concurrently, drastically reduced telephone charges and the time of his departure, was on the verge of overseeing migration from analogue to digital broadcast.
The challenge for whoever will be selecting former PSs to be redeployed will lie in the criteria that will be seen to be fair and transparent. Is Francis Kimemia up to the task? Is it even his docket to do so?