50 CAS positions for Ruto’s cronies are indefensible

Saturday April 08 2023
Kenya Chief Administrative Secretaries

Kenya’s President William Ruto takes a group photo with the newly sworn in Chief Administrative Secretaries at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO |PCS


The 2010 Constitution allows for a minimum of 14 and a maximum of 22 Cabinet ministries. The law also eliminated assistant ministers. The idea was to stop abuse of the Executive prerogative to appoint cabinet ministers and assistant ministers.

Before these constitutional injunctions, the president was free to appoint as many ministers and assistant ministers as he wished. The same principle was applied in appointment of permanent secretaries, parastatal chiefs and other government positions. At that time, those appointed to these positions were not vetted by parliament. They had no incentive to perform, since their loyalty to the president guaranteed their positions. Even when they bankrupted their departments, they suffered no sanctions as long as they kept singing praises to the appointing authority.

So we had a country run by a bloated government of incompetent and corrupt individuals. We could not as a country have invented a better recipe for stagnation and failure. This recipe was not patented to Kenya alone. All over the continent, government positions were used as instruments of patronage.

The novel My Mercedes is Bigger Than Yours by Nigerian Nkem Nwankwo captures the emergent culture where consumerism was an end in itself. Thus, officials had no qualms accumulating fabulous wealth when all around them poverty, which was a result of their negligent and thieving ways, grew exponentially.


No doubt, the Africa of today is not the Africa of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Growing democracy in most parts of Africa has also seen creation of laws and systems to ensure accountability and elimination of use of government positions as tools for self-enrichment or as gifts to relatives and cronies.


However, in 2018, Uhuru Kenyatta created extra-constitutional positions of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), effectively reviving the assistant minister positions. He used these to reward loyal political supporters. William Ruto, his successor, has excelled, creating a whopping 50 CAS positions to reward cronies and friends.

It would be understandable if a position was created in instances where uniquely qualified people were needed in government. But most of the people appointed to these positions have no special knowledge or technical expertise. In fact, many are ethically or morally compromised individuals.

Revive economy

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua defends the positions saying that a big team is needed to revive the economy. Unfortunately for the country, “Rigathinomics” will take us nowhere. The Daily Nation reported that the bloated team will cost Kenya Ksh13 billion ($97 million) in five years. This amount does not include monies that will go into their pockets, given their suspect personal integrity. Also, the cost does not include opportunity costs of appointing people without special expertise in anything except “tumbonomics”.

The 50 CAS positions are rewards for political loyalty with an eye on the elections in 2027. Once again, despite constitutional safeguards against abuse of office, those in power always find ways of going “back to the future.”

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator