President Uhuru Kenyatta has publicly shown low or lack of confidence in his Cabinet but ironically refrained from shuffling it less than 12 months since he formed it.
Insiders say the President has frequently expressed frustration and impatience during Cabinet meetings but this has now come out in the open with public rebuke of his team.
The latest was this week when Uhuru chastised his Cabinet secretaries as leaders with unquenchable appetite for money and who demand billions to deliver just a simple project.
Speaking in Mombasa on Monday, Uhuru said he picked on Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe as the chairman of the Blue Economy committee because he knew CSs would not deliver.
“We were being told it’s a difficult journey. We started it with the general [Mwathethe]. I told him I want you to help me with this job. Because I knew if I go to the Cabinet secretaries I will be told about billions. I don’t know how many billions are required,” a visibly frustrated President stated.
Uhuru has been trying to revive fishing as a viable economic opportunity for the country.
On Monday, he launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service and signed two Executive orders establishing the Kenya Fisheries Corporation and the Bandari Maritime Academy which will be critical in revitalizing the Blue Economy in Kenya.
It was not the first time the President was raising concern about the cost of implementing government projects.
In April, he marveled at a Sh300 million donor-funded eye and dental unit at Tenwek Mission Hospital in Bomet that can serve up to 20,000 patients and conduct 5,000 surgeries annually.
Uhuru said the government will set aside a similar amount and warned Health CS Sicily Kariuki and PS Peter Tum that they were on notice.
“I have been taken through this facility and I have seen how it is built. PS, CS just know that you are on notice,” Uhuru warned.
In a blunt jab at his Cabinet on Monday, Uhuru said some were only concerned about seeing themselves on TV and newspapers but doing little to deliver services to the people.
Said Uhuru: “I am requesting Cabinet secretaries please! Being a CS does not mean sitting in the office. Being a CS is not being a big man. It’s not just attending meetings. It’s about being hands-on. If it’s a road for instance, go there personally and ask, why is this not happening?”
Uhuru also cautioned leaders about endless politicking, another blow to CSs who have been embroiled in 2022 succession politics.
They include Sports CS Rashid Echesa and Devolution’s Eugene Wamalwa. Echesa has publicly been drumming support for Deputy President William Ruto.
During the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Presidential Roundtable meeting on October 16, Uhuru accused Cabinet and other government officials of sleeping on the job, making it difficult for him to fulfill his promises to Kenyans.
The Head of State wondered why projects commissioned a year ago had yet to start, yet funds had been released.
“I came with a prepared speech but after listening to you, I am so ashamed that I can’t read it. I will be lying to you if I read the contents of my speech. I am ashamed after the revelations made here,” the President said after listening to the woes facing SMEs.
“I am sorry that we have not fulfilled our promises. Not even one of my CSs has set foot in Gikomba market,” Uhuru said.
“We have neglected SMEs that pay taxes and employ 75 per cent of our people. This is not the way we should work. We have to change. We can’t continue putting on suits and entertaining big business people in our offices yet we have no time for SMEs. We have to be honest with ourselves,” said the President.
The same month, the President was infuriated with Agriculture minister Mwangi Kiunjuri over the unending woes of maize farmers. The President swore to take action on the minister if money allocated to the farmers is embezzled again.
Uhuru has refrained from purging his Cabinet despite talk of a looming reshuffle especially after his peace deal with Opposition chief Raila Odinga
But civil society activist Ngung’u Wainaina interprets Uhuru’s public lamentation rather than sanctions as a sign of incompetence and indecision.
“He knows the cost of projects is highly inflated. His CSs are not performing,” Wainaina told the Star.
Since he formed the Cabinet eight months ago, Uhuru has only made a minor reshuffle of Principal Secretaries and swapped Trade CS Adan Mohammed with East African Affairs counterpart Peter Munya.
During his first term, Uhuru made several changes in the Cabinet, switching around secretaries.
In his annual reports, Auditor General Edward Ouko has exposed massive financial and procurement irregularities in government.
Just recently, it emerged that government officials were pushing the President to commission the Kenanie Leather Park in Athi River but which had been swept away by floods with investment worth Sh500 million.
The event was clandestinely canceled.
Munya who is new in the Industrialization CS is stamping his authority demanding answers.
“Who carried out the assessment of the suitability of the land? Since I am told the entire project has been swept by the rains apparently because the land is a swamp,” said Munya in an internal memo addressed to PS Betty Maina.