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The bumpy ride that defines Rotich’s tenure

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

Hope and anxiety will greet National Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich as he presents his Sh3.08 trillion budget this afternoon. Today’s presentation will be Rotich’s second since the General Election two years ago.

Ordinarily, this should be Rotich’s enviable day in the sun. But it is not. Cannot be; the terrain has been rough and bumpy for the soft-spoken accountant tasked with the responsibility to keep watch over the country’s coffers.

Borrowing appetite

In circumstances not dissimilar to last year’s, Rotich reads the 2019 Budget Statement for the seventh time under a cloud of high expectations on how he will tackle runaway graft and tame the government’s appetite for borrowing.

What is different this year, however, is that even as the three arms of government seek ways of combating corruption, Rotich himself has been sucked into the mess with himself having had a date with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations  and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission sleuths over the Kimwarer and Arror dams scam and the controversial Sh4 billion business complex in Kisumu constructed by the Lake Basin Development Authority.

Rotich’s responsibilities are, no doubt enormous, today as he turns over the pages of the budget for the next one year while seeking to cautiously steer through heaps of anthills with his focus turning on how to return the country’s finances towards the path of stability.

Rotich presents the budget 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 headlining the efforts.

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

Rotich faces a Herculean task to convince the increasingly desperate public that his annual financial estimates budgets are not primed to enrich the forces of corruption.

Civil servant

Little known Rotich was a surprise appointment to the position of National Treasury Cabinet Secretary after President Uhuru ascended to power in 2013.  Youthful, well schooled and reticent, the 1969-born 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 six years have been a rough ride for Rotich. The Minister has had to contend with an oscillating performance of the shilling, intermittent industrial unrest that seriously destabilised the markets.

A prolonged election contest and disputed results in 2017 worsened matters for the economy. Kenya was practically in a elections campaign mode till March last year when Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga closed ranks and opted to work together.  Bad publicity has characterised Rotich’s tenure at Treasury with claims of widespread corruption in the public sector defining the headlines days on end.

Health docket

In 2016/17, widely reported claims of corruption at National youth Service (NYS) and the Health ministry 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.

Rotich holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in the US. He obtained his bachelors degree in Economics from the University of Nairobi.

He had previously worked as an Assistant Director at the Central Bank of Kenya since 1994 where he was attached to the International Monetary Fund Nairobi Resident Mission as an economist.  He has for the past six years been considered as the key cog in the Jubilee administration’s envisaged economic growth.

However, with corruption claims hanging around his neck  it remains to be seen whether his  financial projections for the next one year will stand the test of time.

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