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Top names lined to head Public Service

Story by KENNETH OGOSIA
Publication Date: 4/21/2008

The hunt for the next Head of Public Service peaked at the weekend with reports that President Kibaki may unveil the new team of the country’s top civil servants any time this week.

Mr Francis Muthaura. Photo/ FILE.

Sources familiar with goings-on in the Government indicated that the new team will comprise serving permanent secretaries and fresh blood drawn from the private sector.

This means that a number of current PSs, especially those that have attained the retirement age of 55 years, will have to go home.

On Sunday, it emerged that five candidates were being considered as possible successors to Public Service Head Francis Muthaura, who is expected to retire from the Government after a career spanning over three decades.

Appointments

The appointments, which are expected to be made any time from Monday, follow negotiations between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Sagana State Lodge on April 12 that resulted in formation of grand coalition Government a day later.

Top on the list of Muthaura’s successors are Investment Secretary Esther Koimett, Agriculture PS Dr Romano Kiome, Mr Odinga’s personal secretary, Dr Mohammed Isahakia, Trade PS David Nalo and ambassador Albert Musasia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The President may pick from the five or even spring a surprise by hiring the top civil servant from outside the Government circles.

Sources indicated that before the power-sharing deal was struck, Dr Kiome, who served as Kari director before becoming PS, was to be named Head of Public Service when half of the Cabinet was appointed in January, but the move was shelved.

It also emerged Sunday that the President and the premier are not insisting that people above the retirement age of 55 should not be considered for the top jobs. The tradition of appointing PSs from the private sector, which was started by retired President Daniel arap Moi with the so-called Dream Team, could also continue.

A source familiar with the forthcoming appointments indicated professionalism and qualifications will be key factors even if someone is above 55 years.

Dr Kiome’s name has resurfaced following pressure to have Mr Muthaura go home with other PSs who have attained the age of retirement.

It is understood that easing out of PSs that are over 55 years was part of the deal struck during the Sagana talks. Some of their positions would then be taken over by ODM nominees.

Sources said Dr Kiome’s strength is more of political considerations. He comes from the Meru region where leaders have been agitating for one more Cabinet position in addition to that of Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi.

Ms Koimett, with 25-year experience in the civil service, is being touted as the neutral and most effective replacement of Mr Muthaura because she is perceived as non-partisan. The pledge by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to have more women in Government may also work in her favour.

She holds an MBA and has spent 15 years in investment promotion, privatisation and public enterprise reform. She has served as managing director of the Kenya Post Office Saving Bank and PS in the Ministry of Tourism and Information.

Dr Isahakia, a former PS, was the ODM technocrat who did a lot of the groundwork on the party’s list of ministers and assistant ministers.  He worked closely with Mr Muthaura and even had an exchange of letters with him when the talks stalled at some point.

High office

If appointed to the high office, this might be seen as reward of North Eastern Province where he comes from and also a boost to the ODM in the power-sharing arrangement.

Dr Isahakia served as PS in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and earlier as the director of the National Museums of Kenya.

Mr Nalo is the only PS from Luo Nyanza  in the Government.

Mr Musasia is a career civil servant of over 20 years, much of it spent in Office of the President having entered as an assistant secretary.

He was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year when President Kibaki appointed ambassadors without Foreign missions.

However,  Mr Musasia who comes from Western Province is approaching retirement age.

ODM’ spokesman Salim Lone said as much as appointments were the work of the two principals and reforms, youthfulness, age and experience will be considered.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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