Questions over Uhuru’s next move after Rotich charged

Questions over Uhuru’s next move after Rotich charged

A substantive appointment is in the offing at Treasury with President Uhuru Kenyatta forced to play the hand he is dealt with following the arraignment of CS Henry Rotich.

Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding the government, wilful failure to comply with applicable procurement procedures and guidelines as well as engaging in a project without prior planning.

Other charges include abuse of office, committing an offence of financial misconduct, fraudulent acquisition of public property and wilful neglect to perform official duty.

Rotich is the latest Cabinet Secretary to face corruption charges and according to the Constitution, has no option but to step aside or be sacked.

If he tenders his resignation, he will be the second CS in the Jubilee administration to be edged out this year.

In March, Rashid Echesa was fired as Sports CS in an executive directive from the President.

His tenure had been marred with scandals and two months after his sacking, he was arrested in connection with the Matungu killings in Kakamega County.

Echesa was swiftly replaced by the then Education CS Amina Mohammed.

In Rotich’s case however, pundits opine that the decision on who will replace him, whether in acting capacity or replacement, will be a tough balancing act as Treasury is the heart of government operations and the President also has to consider regional representation in his Cabinet.

Speculations are rife as to who will be appointed to hold forte to avoid the ministry from coming to a standstill.

Names floated include Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his Transport counterpart James Macharia.

Esther Koimett is also seen as a possible candidate for the Treasury PS position.

The National Treasury is in charge of policies involving expenditure and revenue of the both the national and county governments.

It is also the same ministry that prepares the annual Division of Revenue Bill and the County Allocation of Revenue Bill.

It is poignant to note that the government is facing a lawsuit over the passing of the Appropriation Bill 2019 without incorporation of Division of Revenue Bill.

The Bill mandates the National Treasury to release Ksh.161billion from the Consolidated Fund to various Government departments.

With both Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge in court, resolution of the stalemate over the funds to run of counties remains at risk.

Treasury also oversees mobilization of domestic and external resources for financing national and county government budgetary requirements.

In May this year, Kenya issued a third Eurobond priced at Ksh.210 billion (USD 2.1 billion) following a roadshow in United States and the U.K.

Rotich said proceeds from the issuance were expected to finance a number of development projects, fund the general budgetary expenditure and refinance part of the outstanding debt redemption obligation from the first Eurobond which totals to Ksh.75 billion (USD 750 million).

In overall, operations at Treasury require that the position of cabinet Secretary and his PS not be vacant.

Four years ago, President Kenyatta suspended four Cabinet Secretaries who were implicated in corruption cases and immediately named four others in acting capacity.

They were Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum) and Michael Kamau (Infrastructure and Roads).

The President then directed that Adan Mohamed, Raychelle Omamo, Henry Rotich and James Macharia would hold forte until new Cabinet members are nominated for vetting by the National Assembly.

That was in March 2015.

Six months later, the Head of State, accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, announced 20 names and urged Parliament to ‘fast-track vetting’ and subsequent approval.

The number of ministries had been increased and so had the State Departments.

Additional report from Francis Gachuri and Kepha Muiruri