While working in an NGO that consulted for Transparency International in early 2000s, Ms Anne Waiguru must have helped compile a list of the most corrupt institutions in Kenya.
Over a decade later, the embattled Devolution Cabinet Secretary is embroiled in a corruption scandal that is threatening to tear the ruling coalition apart.
While critics are asking the Devolution minister to quit following revelations of widespread corruption in her ministry and are backing a motion to oust her, her supporters claim that she is a victim of her success.
But such has been the life of Ms Waiguru; a life of service but full of contradictions.
She is a native of Gichugu Constituency in Kirinyaga County, an area known for producing no-nonsense women leaders like former Justice Minister Martha Karua.
Though she does not like revealing her age since she became CS, a basic calculation shows she is 44.
When she was featured by Business Daily’s Top 40, Under 40 pull-out in June 2011, she had just clocked 40.
Ms Waiguru attended the prestigious Precious Blood High School, Riruta, before proceeding to Moi Forces Academy in Nairobi where she sat her A-Level in 1989.
“She was always focused and driven, even in school,” the CS childhood friend Lina Githuka told a TV station.
Ms Waiguru has a Bachelors degree in Economics from University of Nairobi and a Masters in Economic Policy from the same institution.
But it is her career trajectory that reveals her grit and determination.
The mother of three teenage sons started her career working at the Kenya Leadership Institute, an organisation that exposes university students to public policy.
Later, she moved to the World Bank as the Eastern African Regional Representative for the Parliamentary Network.
She was charged with coordinating Members of Parliament monitoring World Bank projects covering eight countries.
But her first stint in the Kenyan civil service was when the World Bank seconded her to the Cabinet office as a technical adviser on issues of governance, leadership and reforms in the public sector.
She was later to replace Mr John Githongo as Head of Governance when the former PS fled the country after accusing former President Mwai Kibaki’s ministers of corruption in the Anglo-Leasing deals.
But it was during the Grand Coalition government that Ms Waiguru’s real mettle in public service was first felt.
She was tasked with implementing the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and as the Head of Governance, she was supposed to ensure that the Sh22 billion programme goes to the intended recipients in all constituencies.
She later oversaw implementation of the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS), the pay system that was used to swindle close to Sh900 million from her ministry.
All the projects she undertook were under the Ministry of Finance, then headed by Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
And when Mr Kenyatta won the presidency in 2013, she was nominated as the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, one of the most powerful dockets in the Jubilee administration.
According to Ms Waiguru, it is a job she did not want.
“I had applied for a Principal Secretary’s job. I was very shocked when I was called for a Cabinet Secretary interview,” said Ms Waiguru, who loves R&B music.
Her influence in the ministry was felt immediately.
The first person to feel her wrath was the Transition Authority chairman, Mr Kinuthia Wamwangi.
His organisation was supposed to spearhead transition to devolved governments, but the CS replaced it by a committee she formed.
TA, which was supposed to be independent, became a department under her ministry.
Protests from Mr Wamwangi fell on deaf government ears and he seems to have accepted this imposed pecking order.
Then there was the replacement of National Youth Service boss, Mr Kiplimo Rugut, by the current Director-General Nelson Githinji in a move that was criticised by United Republican Party MPs.
This came amid claims by staff at her ministry that she is dictatorial and overbearing, assertions she disputed.
“I work hard. If you do not work hard, you can find me a bit pushy but I am not dictatorial,” she said.
Since then, she has sashayed from several highs, like her project Huduma Centre winning awards to lows of graft claims in her ministry.
FOR HOW LONG?
The mix has kept her name in the public limelight.
Ms Waiguru’s projects are either dogged by bad luck or she is surrounded by corrupt officials.
Her Huduma Centres have been praised for improving delivery of service and cutting the time it takes to access some government services but it emerged some centres bought items at exaggerated prices.
She then launched what was supposed to be a transformative NYS programme targeting millions of youths across the country.
But they have been stopped amid claims that over Sh800 million has been stolen.
But in both scandals, she has consistently said she is a whistleblower and never knew what officials in her ministry were doing.
The biggest perception battle she has to fight is claims that she enjoys special treatment from President Kenyatta.
With pressure piling on her to resign, including from the President’s coalition, how long can the powerful CS, who loves dancing, hang on?