Riddle of PSs who vanished from Uhuru’s top jobs list

President Uhuru Kenyatta quietly sent three principal secretaries packing even as he raided the corporate world for people to run key departments of his government.

Industrialisation’s Wilson Songa topped the list of PSs who were left in limbo after Mr Kenyatta announced a new-look government that brought new faces to the Cabinet and increased the number of departments.

Information PS Joseph Tiampati and his counterpart at the East African Affairs John Konchellah were also sent home in the changes announced on Tuesday night.

Unlike their counterparts who were dismissed while on suspension for involvement in alleged corruption, the three were in office and had not been implicated in any wrongdoing.  

Mr Kenyatta made the changes as part of an effort that began on Monday to clean up his government that has in recent months been tainted by allegations of grand corruption and mismanagement.

READ: The new faces in cabinet as Uhuru sacks suspended ministers

In what appears to confirm his belief in private sector solutions to the challenges of government, the president went back to corporate Kenya for new blood he needed to revamp his Cabinet even as he took back two career politicians at the centre of power, making an about-turn on his earlier commitment to surround himself with technocrats.  

Mr Kenyatta’s list of new blood from the private sector has Kenya Seed Company managing director Willy Bett, who has been nominated to serve in the giant Agriculture ministry, Nairobi Hospital chief executive Cleopa Mailu (Health) and former Google executive Joe Mucheru, who is lined up for the ICT docket.

Serving corporate executives appointed as PSs to head state departments are Equity Investment Bank managing director Wilson Nyakera Irungu (Transport), Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authority boss Charles Sunkuli (Environment), Kenya country director of Trademark East Africa Chris Kiptoo (International Trade) and Agriculture Development Corporation managing director Andrew Tuimur (Livestock).

Other PSs are Susan Mochache, who serves as an assistant director at the Communications Authority of Kenya, who is earmarked for Social Security and Services docket ICT Authority boss Victor Kyalo (ICT and Innovation), UN Nairobi training coordinator Lilian Omollo (Youth and Public Service), Danish Embassy private sector specialist Joe Okudo (Arts and Culture), Fatuma Hirsi of Universal Postal Union, World Bank sanitation expert Patrick Nduati Mwangi (Irrigation) and Andrew Kamau, consultant at Bracewell Energy, who takes charge of Petroleum department.

Past corporate executives on the list of PSs include ex KAM CEO Betty Maina (EAC Integration), former Equatorial Commercial Bank boss Sammy Itemere (Broadcasting and Telecommunications), ex-Kenyan Maritime Authority director-general Nancy Karigithu (Maritime Commerce), former Cotton Development Authority boss Micah Powon (Correctional Services).

The changes announced on Tuesday night were Mr Kenyatta’s first cabinet shuffle since assuming power in April 2013.

Mr Kenyatta’s second wave of hiring from the corporate world comes at a time when the performance of serving cabinet secretaries picked from the private sector is under the spotlight as the UhuRuto administration enters the second half of its term.

The executive changes also saw the appointment of Kericho Senator Charles Keter to the lucrative Energy ministry, former Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri (Devolution) andMalindi legislator Dan Kazungu (Mining).

Kariithi Murimi, a risk consultant and governance expert, said there was need to retrain corporate executives from joining the government in order to avoid mis-alignment of work culture and avoid management conflicts.

“Those coming from the private sector will have to be trained on public service if they are to start from a correct platform,” said Mr Murimi, adding that serving Cabinet secretaries who were plucked from corporate world “have so far disappointed” in their performance.

“It was also a political balancing act with an eye on 2017,” he said regarding the appointment of political operatives and the return to 41 State departments that the Kibaki-Raila Grand Coalition era had.

Mr Kenyatta has been under attack from the opposition Cord, foreign envoys and international media over rampant corruption and wastage in government, evidenced by profligate spending and mega tendering frauds.

After eight months of pussyfooting, the President gathered Courage to sack all the five suspended cabinet secretaries — Charity Ngilu, Michael Kamau, Davis Chirchir, Felix Koskei and Kazungu Kambi — who are facing corruption allegations and charges.

Mr Kenyatta also sacked principal secretaries facing graft charges, including Peter Mangiti (Planning) and Nduva Muli (Transport).

Kenya Institute of Management executive director David Muturi said ministers sourced from the corporate sector must have suffered a culture shock when they joined government, explaining their lacklustre performance.

“They must have been hit by a culture shock. Private sector is just about bottom line, but public service is about stakeholder engagement — which is more and takes time. It may be frustrating,” said Mr Muturi.

Some of the serving cabinet secretaries pulled from C-suites include Adan Mohamed, who was an executive with Barclays Africa, former NIC Bank boss James Macharia, Fred Matiang’i (Centre for International Development, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy) and Phyllis Kandie, who was an aiser at Standard Investment Bank.