• Mudavadi has been handed the twin responsibilities of fine-tuning the giant public service as the delivery vehicle for President William Ruto
• He wants the accounting officers and heads of department and agencies to identify staffing deficits or surpluses in numbers and cadres
In eight circulars given to PSs and accounting officers of ministries, departments and agencies during the first of his weekly meetings, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, sets out to organise, energise and tool Kenya’s civil service in tandem with the principles and policies of the Kenya Kwanza government.
The circulars show the government envisages a thorough-going reshaping of the service in order that it may effectively play the roles of defining, developing and implementing government policy; managing public expenditure and revenues responsibly; providing frontline support and delivering swift services to the people of Kenya; and preparing and drafting sound legislation.
This means Mudavadi, as the first holder of the post of PCS, has been handed the twin responsibilities of fine-tuning the giant public service as the delivery vehicle for President William Ruto and Kenya Kwanza administration, and wearing the mantle of delivery tsar of the national government. Does his vast experience in government put him in good stead for both?
A look at what the circulars say may serve as a guide as to what awaits the man. The areas he is targeting are not new, which may suggest their importance or hint at failure of previous administrations to address the said issues.
Recurrence could also mean that government sets targets every time, or that the political leadership embarks on a given agenda only to run out of steam as a result of which their efforts are quietly relegated to the back burner.
A look at President Uhuru Kenyatta’s vow in 2013 to trim the public service and tame the runaway public pay roll and President Daniel Moi’s World Bank-sanctioned so-called Dream Team of 1999 headed by Richard Leakey to streamline the Civil Service and bring back investor confidence in Kenya may serve as eye openers for the PCS.
In the circular on core competences, staffing norms and tooling, Mudavadi wants the accounting officers and heads of department and agencies to identify staffing deficits or surpluses in numbers and cadres, identify tooling deficits and surpluses.
Additionally, he wants them to undertake payroll audits and cleanse and develop modalities of competitive pay and benefit reform that guarantee attraction, motivation and retention of critical competences. He also wants them to identify areas where budgets are not aligned to staffing and tooling.
On professional deployment and redeployment of staff, Mudavadi requires that the heads deploy and redeploy staff and tools to harmonise deficits and surpluses within and between ministries, departments and agencies; rationalise human resource budgetary issues such as professionals and non-professionals, personal emoluments versus operational and maintenance and staffing versus tooling.
Regarding service charters, which define the kind of service, its cost, standards, timing and delivery, and performance contracting, Mudavadi is clear that these have been relegated to the periphery. He, therefore, wants the heads to update and digitalize service charters for the services of the national government and county governments.
He describes performance contracting as a “critical instrument and the professional and predictable delivery of government business”. Mudavadi orders enforcement of quarterly evaluation reports and creation of reform champions, change agents and leaderships in ministries, departments and agencies “to enhance ownership and consensus.”
He asks the heads to review the form, content, weightage and relevance of the “current performance contracting instruments due to the new Government agenda.”
Turning to rationalisation of government expenditure to spur economic development, Mudavadi says this is aimed at “removal of unnecessary expenditure and conspicuous consumption” in the government and “targeting the limited resources in the budget to areas with the highest economic impact/outcomes” and an enhancement of the culture of saving, financial discipline and prudent style of management…. where public intertest and accountability is supreme.”
Therefore, Mudavadi advises that non-essential activities, functions and programmes that should be targeted for “cost containment” should include “unnecessary travel, including mode and means of transport and size of delegation, both locally and internationally”, ensuring seminars, trainings, workshops, conferences “are held internally and where possible in Government institutions.”
He proposes that the service identifies government functions that can be “best performed by the private sector……. through outsourcing, contracting and privatization.”
Mudavadi’s plate looks full before all the eight circulars are in. That suggests he will have to ensure he does not get bogged down in the business of tackling the bureaucracy as to lose sight of the agenda for which the tuning of the service is intended. He will have to lead by example and be the motivator of the civil servants.
And he will have to protect them from politicians and vested interests that often derail the reform of the service and cause apathy. His motivation is clear: He cannot afford to fail because that will signal failure at the heart of government and, already, this is a government under intense pressure to deliver.
Kibisu Kabatesi is Musalia Mudavadi's private secretary