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CS faces biggest test as corruption storm rages

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

As the whole world gears for a sizzling one-month Fifa World Cup football bonanza that kicks off tonight in Russia, locally, expectations will be high this afternoon as National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich saunters into the confines of Parliament to present his fourth Budget Statement.

Anxiety reigns across the country as Rotich tables the 2018/19 Sh3.07 trillion budget — up from Sh2.6 trillion this financial year — which is his first since last year’s General Election that ushered President Uhuru Kenyatta back into office for second and last five-year term.

Though it shall be Rotich’s enviable day in the sun, so to speak, the road has been rough and bumpy for the 49-year-old Economics and Public Administration graduate tasked with the responsibility to keep watch over the country’s coffers.

His responsibilities are no doubt enormous today as he flips through the nation’s budget for the next 365 days while seeking to cautiously steer through heaps of social, economic and political labyrinths with his eyes and mind steadily fixed on pushing Kenya’s economy on the upward swing.

The CS presents the Budget Statement against a backdrop of embarrassing scandals that point to deeply embedded corruption in public institutions which make nonsense of the pledges he has previously made in the past five years.

During Uhuru’s first term, Rotich largely focussed on infrastructure, health and education sectors with the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Last Mile electricity projects.

Whereas the same expected to be highlighted in his speech today, President Uhuru’s “Big Four” Agenda that encompasses Manufacturing, Food Security, Affordable Healthcare and Affordable Housing will be the prominent focal points.

Even with all the nice pledges, Rotich faces a daunting task of convincing the increasingly public that his budgets are not primed to enrich the forces of corruption.

High-scale graft has in the recent past been reported at the National Youth Service, National cereal and Produce Board, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and Kenya Power.

The hitherto unheard of Rotich was a surprise appointment to the position of National Treasury Cabinet Secretary after Uhuru ascended to power in 2013. Youthful, highly educated and noticeably reticent, Rotich was a career civil servant until Uhuru plucked him from a middle-level position at the Treasury where he had been the Head of Macro-Economics since March 2006 to head the country’s Finance docket.

The past five years have been a rough ride for him. The minister has had to contend with an oscillating performance of the shilling, intermittent industrial unrest that range from education sector where public schools teachers and university lecturers to nurses, clinical officers and doctors have staged a series of strikes.

The country’s bad publicity – both local and international – have characterised Rotich’s tenure at Treasury Building with claims of widespread corruption in the public sector defining the headlines days on end.

In 2016/17 financial year, widely reported claims of corruption at NYS and the Ministry of Health as well as the controversies surrounding the multi-billion-shilling Eurobond saga considerably mired Rotich’s saddle at the apex of Kenya’s financial sector.

Prior to his appointment to head the Treasury, Rotich had been involved formulation of macroeconomic policies ensuring affordable and sustainable path of public spending to achieve the government’s development priorities. 

He was also involved in preparation of key budget documents including Budget Statements and providing strategic co-ordination of structural reforms in the area of fiscal and financial sector. He is the first holder of the portfolio of Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury in the new constitutional dispensation.

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