A new cadre of public servants hired on super salaries is contributing to the ballooning wage bill, enquiries by the Sunday Nation reveal.
The big number of advisers, consultants and quasi-state officials recruited by the Jubilee government on special terms in the last one year further puts to question President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message of austerity following revelations that the unsustainable wage bill of almost Sh500 billion needs to be cut.
But the chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Prof Margaret Kobia, defended the hiring of the new officials, many of whom were party activists before Jubilee came to power. Many of the advisers, she said, bring special skills.
“They (advisers) are both in the office of the President and the office of the Deputy President. It is something in the law. That doesn’t take away the work of the Cabinet Secretaries though. Even the Cabinet Secretaries can also seek advice from the special advisers,” Prof Kobia told us.
“When this administration came in it established the executive office of the president that has the offices of the president and deputy president and in that structure they included advisers,” said Prof Kobia, adding that PSC approved the structure.
POLITICIANS IN PAYROLL
The President’s and Deputy President’s offices seem to be the main culprits as many of the Jubilee campaigners, financiers and politicians who lost in the 2013 elections have been included in the payroll, with some becoming the new powerbrokers operating behind the scenes and parallel to the Cabinet Secretaries and career civil servants.
The Sunday Nation has established that many of these “super-paid” public officers have ended up duplicating the functions of career civil servants. For instance, State House has long had the office of the Chief Government Receptionist.
But now, it seems the function has been overshadowed by the Directorate of Events and Branding. In addition, the diaspora issues have usually been handled at the ministry of Foreign Affairs which has the skills and the necessary expertise.
The Kenyan taxpayer also pays a director of digital and new media yet there is the Information ministry as well as the ICT board.
In the Presidency, advisers are accountable to former Treasury Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua who is the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service.
Among the senior advisers in the President’s office at State House are Ms Nancy Gitau, an old hand in government carried over from the Kibaki era as the senior political adviser. She is deputised by former Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny who lost the seat to world-renowned athlete Wilson Korir.
Former Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed is the senior constitutional and legislative adviser to the President and was deputised by Albert Muriuki who disappeared mysteriously two months ago. His whereabouts remain unknown.
The Presidential Strategic Communication Unit, which replaced the Presidential Press Unit, is headed by Mr Manoah Esipisu and has four directors: Mr Munyori Buku (public communications), Mr James Kinyua (events and branding), Mr Eric Ng’eno (speech writing and messaging) and Mr Dennis Itumbi (Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs).
PSCU also has two deputy directors, namely, Mr David Nzioka (Innovations, New Media and Diaspora) and Mr Thomas Kwaka “Big Ted” (Events).
Sunday Nation also understands that a former Energy PS and a retired managing director in the energy sector had joined State House as informal advisers. It is not clear what their terms of engagement are.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has Ms Connie Gakonyo as the Chief of Staff while former Treasury head of communication Maina Kigaga is the PSCU deputy director in charge of the First Lady’s Office.
The deputy president’s office has a separate communication unit.
In the office of the Deputy President, among the prominent special advisers on PSC payroll are Ms Maryanne Keitany (Chief of Staff). Ms Keitany is understood to have been a key player in the Jubilee elections win alongside Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir who was previously the URP secretary general, Mr Reuben Maiyo (private secretary), Dr Chesang’, in Pcharge of policy, Lang’ata parliamentary loser Nixon Korir (adviser on youth) and former MP from the Coast region Anania Mwaboza, who is adviser on parliamentary matters.
Another loser in 2013 elections, Dr James Nyoro, is adviser to the presidency on food security and climate change based in the office of the Deputy President.
The legal adviser in the Executive Office of the Deputy President is Dr Korir Sing’oei and is deputised by Ms Patita Tingoi (Intergovernmental Relations Secretary) and TNA legal secretary Jasper Mbiuki (Legislative Affairs Legal Advisory Secretary).
The Government Coordination Unit in Mr Ruto’s office has four offices of the LAPSSET coordinator, Oceanic Management, Efficiency Monitoring Unit and the Inspectorate of State Corporations. Other advisers in Mr Ruto’s office include Ms Anne Masibei (social security), Mr Kariuki (governance). Once again, the Sunday Nation established there are other advisers whose terms of service are not clear.
The situation in the Presidency has been replicated in some of the 18 ministries as Cabinet Secretaries brought in new staff from the private sector and included them in the payroll. This is despite there being career civil servants in most roles.
In the Devolution ministry, for example, there are about six advisers. Among them are Mr Erastus Wamugo, Ms Betty Maina (not Ms Betty Maina of Kenya Association of Manufacturers), and Jester Nkoroi.
Prof Kobia said that about Seven Cabinet secretaries had made requests for special advisers.
“There are some cabinet secretaries who particularly need advisers who are placed on shorter contracts of two or three years. Not all of them require advisers but they can request because that is provided for within the law,” she said.
The trend has been replicated in the counties where governors arrived with their political cronies unknown to the Transition Authority who were later placed on the payroll.
According to Prof Kobia, most of the advisers join the service at job groups P, Q, R, S and some T “depending on the qualifications and experience”. These are senior positions in the structure.
However, the Sunday Nation understands that some are in job group V, the highest in the public service structure previously reserved only for the head of public service.
Among those in Job Group V are secretary to the cabinet Francis Kimemia who was the head of public service in the Kibaki regime, Mr Kinyua and two other officers in Mr Ruto’s office. A number of the secretaries fall in job group T. The directors are mostly in job group S.
Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretary Stephen Mutoro said these super-paid public servants end up killing the morale in the civil service by duplicating duties and earning huge salaries.
“The super-paid civil servants are basically in their own world – they are paid so highly for doing so little to the extent that they adversely kill the morale of the mainstream public servants who in return do everything in their ability to sabotage such newcomers instead of serving the public,” said Mr Mutoro.
According to Mwalimu Mati of Mars Group Kenya, if the special advisers must be retained, they have to accept the government wage structure to help in partly plugging the budget deficit.
“There is not going to be fiscal discipline if it is left to the advisers to choose what they want,” he said.
A former civil servant who left office after the 2013 elections described the advisers brought in by the political executives as “high-consuming offices within the government structure” who are like demi-gods.
Their offices are well-furnished besides getting cutting-edge mobile handsets and accompanying monthly top-ups, water dispensers. There is also a retinue of staff assigned to them including secretaries, personal assistants, drivers, messengers and armed guards. In addition, they have government cars at their disposal and draw huge per diems and travel allowances.
Former Ethics Permanent Secretary John Githongo discounted the assertion that these advisers are imparting specialist skills. According to Mr Githongo, the reality that has emerged is that political loyalty is the key qualification for this cadre of staff.
“Compared to regular civil servants, hiring consultants allows you to by-pass the usual employment processes so they are tailor-made for certain people because of a variety of considerations: their specialised skill, experience, nepotism, corruption,” said Mr Githongo.