March 2018 TheStar;
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has caused a stir at the ministry’s headquarters after displacing senior staff to set up a magnificent office.
The CS ordered Afya House’s seventh floor cleared to establish what insiders describe as a grand office that puts into question the government’s commitment to financial prudence.
Sources indicate the CS and her charges intend to occupy three-quarters of the entire two-wing floor – complete with a kitchen, meeting rooms and a changing room.
The details emerged just days after Auditor General Edward Ouko revealed that the Jubilee administration cannot account for Sh40.2 billion in the last financial year.
The move by the CS has triggered disquiet in the ministry, after many senior staff was relocated and now congest other offices.
Among those ousted from the seventh floor include the ministry’s chief finance officer, chief dental specialist, under secretary for medical equipment, senior deputy secretary and head of mental health.
On Tuesday, the Star stealthily paid a visit to Afya House and found nearly three-quarters of the seventh floor being reconstructed.
Several offices, including the boardroom, had been flattened, ceiling board and windowpanes removed. Sand and bags of cement littered the floor, signalling that construction work was just about to begin. It was not possible to establish the extent of the renovations or the cost. The CS did not answer calls or respond to text messages. Neither did the ministry’s Director of Communication, Eunice Sirima.
“Surely how can one person take three-quarters of a floor yet the other staff are now overcrowding?” a senior officer lamented.
The current office on the sixth floor where the CS sits was also used by previous ministers, including Beth Mugo (2008-2012), James Macharia (2013-2015) and Cleopa Mailu (2015-2018).
Kariuki was plucked from the Tea Board of Kenya where she was serving as CEO and appointed Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture before being promoted to CS for Public Service and Youth. She was moved to the Ministry of Health on January 26, by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Her brief stint at the ministry is running into headwinds as Rift Valley MPs Tuesday threatened to impeach her for sending Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Lily Koros on compulsory leave last week. They were speaking in Mombasa where they are attending a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association seminar.
Kariuki is also being accused of meddling in the recruitment of the chief executive of the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, Kemsa.
MPs from Northeastern questioned why Kariuki has ordered that the vacancy of the CEO of Kemsa be re-advertised. Speaking on behalf of 10 others, Saku MP Dido Rosa said the move was ill-informed and in bad faith. They said one Dr Wako Dulacha had emerged tops in interviews followed by two others — Dr Joseph Sitienei and Dr Jonah Mwangi.
“The CEO of Kemsa is a professional job where the most qualified practitioner is picked on merit from professionals through a competitive interview process,” the lawmaker protested, hinting at ulterior motives.
“We caution the Ministry of Health that the selection or appointment of the CEO was properly processed by the Kemsa board and the same cannot be re-opened again.” Kariuki’s moves mirror what is happening in other ministries since the appointment of the new Cabinet. There are complaints of CSs moving to their new ministries with hordes of staff, most of them technical advisers.
The technocrats are being appointed in senior job groups and have become the envy of their colleagues.
Sources in government also said Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjiri’s office had been refurbished with new furniture taken on credit and re-carpeted after he took over last month. The offices of his two Permanent Secretaries – Richard Lesiyampe (Crop Development) and Andrew Tuimur (Livestock) were also given a face-lift.
It is said that procurement officials are taking advantage of the window to procure direct supplies hurriedly.
On December 5 last year, Deputy President William Ruto publicly slammed public officers for employing many advisers, terming it a sign of incompetence.
“If you find yourself requiring several advisers to do the job for which either you were appointed or elected, it is time to leave the job for something else. It simply means you don’t know what you are doing and you need to give it up,” Ruto protested.
He went on: “How can a Cabinet Secretary have five to six advisers? It simply means you do not know what you are doing. Just resign. Some of us when we were minsters we didn’t have advisers.”
Asked about the relevant provisions for ministers, Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe yesterday said that he would have to consult with the Public Service Commission to get a clear picture of the number of technocrats, if any, attached to the CSs. He was however categorical that personal staff must be distinguished from official government officers.
“I don’t know the statistics. I am the Government Spokesman, but I must talk on the basis of facts,” he said, suggesting that some could be personal assistants unrelated to their official duties.