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TRASHING ETHICS?

Public servants at the centre of campaigns

Public servants at the centre of campFollowing the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila Odinga, public officers have taken advantage to outrightly play politicsaigns

In Summary

• Section 16 (2) of the Public Officer Ethics Act stipulates that: "A public officer shall not engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of his office."

• A section of Cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries, board chairpersons and some members among other senior State officers are deeply involved in open partisan politics.

Likoni MP Mishi Mboko (4th from L), Governor Hassan Joho, his former deputy Hazel Katana and Public Service, Youth and Gender CAS Rachael Shebesh at Sheikh Zayed Chirldren Centre in Mombasa on April 7
EMBRACE Likoni MP Mishi Mboko (4th from L), Governor Hassan Joho, his former deputy Hazel Katana and Public Service, Youth and Gender CAS Rachael Shebesh at Sheikh Zayed Chirldren Centre in Mombasa on April 7
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

As time ticks towards the 2022 election and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession politics gaining momentum, State officers have been roped in, despite questions being raised over their roles and professionalism.

Following the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila Odinga, public officers have taken advantage to outrightly play politics, in what is widely perceived as concerted efforts to stop Deputy President William Ruto from ascending to power.

This is despite the law barring public servants from participating in politics.

 

Section 16 (2) of the Public Officer Ethics Act stipulates that: "A public officer shall not engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of his office."

This section does not apply to MPs or an MCA.

The Jubilee Party is already divided into two main rival groups, Team Kieleweke, which is pro-Uhuru, and Team Tangatanga, which is affiliated with Ruto. And then among the women leaders, there is Team Embrace, which brings together women leaders from the ruling Jubilee Party and opposition, and Inua Mama, which is affiliated to Tangatanga.

Kieleweke and Embrace, which are said to be funded by the Office of the President, claim to be moving around the country campaigning for the support of the handshake.

Women leaders who are allied to Ruto have kept off the activities of Team Embrace and instead formed their own caucus.

 A section of Cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries, board chairpersons and some members among other senior State officers are deeply involved in open partisan politics.

On Monday this week, three CSs and a number of PSs were summoned to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters to record statements on their involvement in an alleged scheme not only to cut DP to size in the Mt Kenya region but also to stop him from succeeding Uhuru whose term ends in 2022.

 

CSs Peter Munya (Trade and Industrialisation), Sicily Kariuki (Health) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Energy PS Joseph Njoroge were among those who presented themselves at the DCI.

After their meeting, the detectives, Munya, who addressed the press on behalf of the rest of the top government officials, denied any plans to harm Ruto.

The though talking CS, however, said as Kenyans, they, too, have a right to meet.

“We have made it clear that at no time have we ever met anywhere to plan to kill the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya or any other person for that matter,” Munya said,

“But we want to also confirm that we had a meeting in La Mada and we will continue meeting because there is freedom of association in this country.”

On June 14 Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs CAS Rachel Shebesh attended an Embrace rally in Murang’a county, which the host, Woman Rep Sabina Chege, was booed to tears by residents who were chanting support for Ruto.

Others government officials who attended the rally included former Taita Taveta Woman Rep Joyce Lay, who sits in the Water Sector Trust Fund board, and former Nyeri Woman Rep Priscilla Nyokabi, who is now a commissioner at the National Gender and Equity Commission

“I voted for Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as my President and Deputy President. They are in office right now, that means they are our two leaders and they know the pain of reckless politics. They should not allow any divisions in the country,” Lay tweeted on Thursday.

Lay, who was jubilee’s Senate candidate in Taita Taveta in the 2017 elections, says there is need to ban public rallies, reckoning that divisions in government came about as a result of the formation of the various factions within Jubilee.

“Jubilee cracked the moment Kieleweke, Tanganga, Embrace and Inua Mama were formed. Those who are against the Deputy President are saying it openly. This is division,” she notes.

“We should ban public rallies. Let us all support the President. Every one of us should go back to our stations of work and serve wananchi,” she adds.

Others who have been seen attending anti-Ruto’s Team Kieleweke events include former Dagoreti South MP  Dennis Waweru who chairs the Kenya Investment Authority Board.

On May 26, during a during a church service at ACK Good Samaritan in Kasarani, Nairobi, Waweru called on the DP to stop undermining the President and told him to stop 2022 campaigns.

 “Don’t talk about 2022. Tell us what you have done with taxpayer’s cash to improve the welfare of Kenyans,” Waweru said.

Former Mukurueini MP Kabando Wa Kabando, who chairs the Board of the Local Authorities Provident Fund, is also a man on the watch over his constant political statements targeted at the DP.

Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murokomen notes that the rate at which civil servants are engaging in partisan politics is worrying.

“I find it strange that the recently appointed chairs and members of the boards of parastatals have found themselves in a situation where they can comfortably discuss or perpetuate a conversation of the President is this way and the Deputy President is that way,” he said.

“These are unprecedented things in a country where there is only one political party with one President and one Deputy President. For public servants or public officers to have the audacity to talk ill of the Deputy President is the highest level of insubordination”.

I find it strange that the recently appointed chairs and members of the boards of parastatals have found themselves in a situation where they can comfortably discuss or perpetuate a conversation of the President is this way and the Deputy President is that way
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murokomen

Belgut MP Nelson Koech called on government officials involved in campaigns to quit “rather than use their positions to perpetuate partisan politics”.

He urged Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua to deal with the officials, saying should the trend continue, it will breed tribalism in government.

“ Section 3(3) of the Public Officer Ethics Act and Section 4 of the Public Service Commission Act is very clear. The government officers engaged in politics are in flagrant violation of the Leadership and Integrity Act,” Koech said.

“Public servants are an important pillar of our country. They must do the right thing, serve the country and not be biased on service delivery. No party is bigger than the people of Kenya. A depoliticised civil service that serves all the Kenyan people equally irrespective of ethnic and political affiliations is what we all like to see,” he added.

Chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs in the National Assembly William Cheptumo cautioned that civil servants involved in politics will lead to disharmony in the country and will affect service delivery.

He challenged the former MPs to relinquish their positions and join active politics.

“A person who has taken a political position is no longer fit to hold a position in civil service because if they politicise what they do, it would be our destiny to be a divided society, and as a country this is something we cannot afford,” he said.

“What's being witnessed in the country is a situation where the cabinet is divided with those perceived to be pro-handshake between Raila and Uhuru and against the handshake, pegging the question, where is the country headed to?” he posed.