President William Samoei Ruto has set the tone for a new style of working that has caught his Cabinet Secretaries (CSs) and Permanent Secretaries (PSs) off guard. The laissez faire mode of operation common to many government officials who pay lip service during events and disappear shortly after was abruptly brought to an end during the first Cabinet meeting held in Nanyuki over a three-day retreat. CSs and PSs, who thought they could leave their juniors to attend to the mundane tasks after the opening session of the meeting, left early to go back to Nairobi. They were forced to drive back to Nanyuki after they were given an ultimatum to return and see the meeting to the end or resign.
The President was clear during the meeting that he wants government officials to cut down on bureaucracy which holds back on the delivery of service and to address matters quickly. He asked them to clear work from their desks by the end of day.
To show the seriousness of the task at hand, President Ruto has also set serious performance targets for each of the ministries to be accomplished within a six-month period based on the promises he made in his manifesto and asked the ministries to work in tandem and not in silos to accomplish the tasks.
The UDA manifesto zeroes in on five areas in the Agriculture sector, Housing, Access to Credit, Universal Healthcare, the Digital Superhighway and Climate Change. Within these five pillars, access to affordable credit is highlighted as well as manufacturing and value addition. An example of the set targets can be glimpsed from the Ministry of ICT
|Manifesto Commitment||6 Month Target|
|Enhance government service delivery through digitisation and automation of all government critical processes and make available 80 per cent of government services online.||Digitisation of all government services.|
|Universal broadband availability throughout the country within five years. We shall increase and fast-track broadband connectivity across the country by construction of 100,000km of national fibre optic connectivity network.||120,000 km Digital Superhighway within one year.|
|Not in the Manifesto||Revival of the Postal Telecommunication Service and Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.|
|Not in the Manifesto||25,000 Wifi spots|
|Set up a National Open University to increase access and reduce the cost of university education while making 100 percent transition to higher education a reality.||Kenya Open University by May 2023|
The table gives an overview of how ambitious and demanding the targets are.
For the Ministry of Transport, an audit of all big infrastructure projects is being conducted while the government seeks alternative sources of funding through bonds. Plans are underway to cut construction and material costs through the establishment of two departments to oversee this.
The CS for Treasury has to cut down spending by KShs. 300 billion for the next financial year while her counterpart in health will have to enroll 17 million kenyans into the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Each of the 21 ministries have their targets set out for them.
Most Kenyan government ministries and agencies normally work along the lines of a 5-year strategic plan culled from the 5-year mid-term that itself breaks down Vision 2030, the national development blueprint, into targets that should be achieved every five years. This slows down the pace of government work which is riddled with bureaucracy and red tape. By calling for synergistic action across government and setting strict deadlines, the President is indicating on an accelerated course to achieve his manifesto and that he is on a mission to ensure that the work is done. Already, the Hustler Fund that he promised was launched and has been subscribed to by over 16 million kenyans.
But it is not enough to instill a good work ethic in government professionals or to have good ideas, and have them up and running by a given time. There is the question of the feasibility of these projects and also the budget. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has done an analysis of the President’s manifesto to establish possible revenue streams and determined that the plan may be too ambitious from a cost perspective and therefore not easy to realise.
Signs are already showing that the government intends to raise revenue from the usual sources, that is the private sector. Attempts at increasing the tax base are not yet strongly convincing since the Kenya Revenue Authority did not even meet its targets in the past year despite a growth in collections. Lifting the fuel subsidy has increased the cost of living tremendously for all Kenyans leading through inflation. Projections that sub-Saharan African countries will see some growth this year notwithstanding, life looks very bleak for Kenyans as they prepare for a possible global recession. This calls for a wait and see attitude to see how well the government fares in serving the people.