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Uhuru sends ministers on forced leave

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday sent all his cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and accounting officers on leave starting today, in an unprecedented move that is likely to fuel fears of a looming Cabinet reshuffle.

A circular signed by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua says the secretaries had been given “Christmas vacation” starting December 21 to January 7.

“ In the spirit of allowing you to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, it has been decided that you can take Christmas recess with effect from Friday 21 December 2018 to Monday 7, 2019,” it read in part.

And in what is likely to cause further speculation on an impending massive house-cleaning, the Cabinet secretaries have been advised to designate a duty officer, who is “senior enough” to hold brief in their absence.

Recall to duty

“In your absence you are required to designate a duty officer who will be in the office throughout the period. The officer should be senior enough to deal with routine day to day assignments of your office assignments of your office,” Kinyua wrote.

Interestingly, all the Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs) have not been affected raising questions whether they are likely to take over from the CSs in the interim period.  The Cabinet has 16 CASs who normally hold brief for the CSs in their absence.

The CASs have been representing their bosses in parliamentary committee meetings. Uhuru while forming his second Cabinet for the final term appointed the CASs, most of whom are former politicians who lost in the last election.

Among the functions of the State that might be affected by the unprecedented move by the Head of State is release of the results of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam which was due anytime before Christmas.

But as Education CS Amina Mohammed and her PS Belio Kipsang proceed on their Christmas vacation, Kinyua leaves room for a recall to duty should need arise—and this could be the scenario if they expected release of the KCSE exam is done today in line with the President’s pledge that exam result would be out before Christmas.

Following the new development, Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe moved to dispel what he termed as rumours that the State officers had been sent on compulsory leave saying they were just on a recess.

Cabinet reshuffle

“We wish to reiterate that the essence of the circular is to provide an opportunity for the officers involved to celebrate Christmas with family and friends,” read the statement.

The move by the President caught many of the CSs and PSs off guard with some of them initially unable to respond to our calls.

Later, two of them who responded said they had received the memo and welcomed the recess, adding that Kenyans should not read too much into it because  since they were appointed, they have never gone on leave.

But three former Cabinet ministers we talked to said the move to send the State officers on leave was a clear message that the President was planning to get rid of some of them.

“This has never happened in this country, ministers are appointed to work 24/7 and telling them to proceed on leave is a clear message that a reshuffle was in the offing,” said the former cabinet minister during the Kibaki administration.

Another one said; “This is a clear indication that something big is about to happen, the President is doing it in a polite way, but ultimately he will reshuffle his Cabinet before January 7”.

For a time, Uhuru has expressed frustration with the performance of his Cabinet, especially in the fight against graft. He has also told his team to embrace and align their activities to his Big Four agenda on which he has pitched his legacy.

On this two fronts, many Kenyans  are of the view that the President is almost on his own and thus needs to clean house and bring in a more energic, clean and versatile team to work with.

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