A peek at State House under Kibaki
Posted Saturday, August 11 2012 at 23:30
- Even as the Head of State drives the national development agenda, his official residence cries for help
President Kibaki could ride out the remainder of his term without the crucial services of a State House Comptroller, the powerful and coveted job that has seen the exit of three officials during his presidency.
And it would appear that as the President has driven infrastructural projects around the country as part of his agenda, State House, the seat of the presidency, has long remained almost neglected.
The last holder of the office of the State House Comptroller was Dr Nelson Githinji who was moved in unclear circumstances to the post of Director of Tourism after a two-year stint.
His transfer to the relatively junior position in the Ministry of Tourism towards the end of last year was not announced officially and the reasons for the move were not given.
Dr Githinji was appointed to the position on November 2, 2009. He was previously Coca-Cola’s head of policy, corporate and government relations in East and Central Africa. He was the third to leave State House in unclear circumstances.
After President Kibaki assumed power in 2003, he appointed a long-time political ally and friend, Mr Matere Keriri, to the powerful position. Mr Keriri was removed from office shortly after what appeared to be a public spat with First Lady Lucy Kibaki at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
On that day, the presidential entourage had returned from a coastal trip and Mr Keriri was one of the officials lining up to receive the President and the First Lady. It was on June 6, 2004. Mrs Kibaki shook hands with the officials in line but skipped Mr Keriri. Little was heard or seen of him after that. He left office and was later appointed chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission.
In his place came a quintessential civil servant, Mr Hyslop Ipu, a man of quiet demeanour, who held the position until he was quietly moved to the Ministry of Roads, leaving the office vacant.
In early 2009, it was widely speculated in high political circles that Prof Nick Wanjohi, a man long known to the President, would take over from Mr Ipu.
But when the announcement came, things had changed. A PPS dispatch announced that an office of the private secretary would be hived off from that of the Cmptroller.
“The position of Private Secretary/Comptroller of State House has been split in order to enhance management and efficiency,” the announcement read. “Professor Nick Wanjohi will serve as the Private Secretary to the President while the post of Comptroller of State House is in the process of being filled.”
“In the new arrangement the Comptroller of State House will be responsible for Finance and Administration while the Private Secretary will handle the President’s diary and presidential programmes,” said the July 7, 2009 statement. It was not until November of that year that Dr Githinji was recruited.
On assumption of office, Dr Githinji embarked on a re-evaluation of State House functions with a view to improving support for the presidency.
He revised an existing five-year plan, which showed that State House had a shortfall of about 600 members of staff.
In full capacity, State House should run on about 1,000 members of staff distributed to all the State Houses and State Lodges throughout the country.
A State House document seen by the Sunday Nation shows that the Mtito Andei and Cherangany State lodges are not manned at all, raising questions about what would happen should the Head of State need to use them.
It turns out that the powerful office of Comptroller, which should handle these matters and ensure full efficiency at all times, has turned out to be a hot potato.