Politics and policy

Tough reforms agenda awaits Treasury nominee

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Mr. Henry Rotich, nominee Cabinet Secretary to the National Treasury. FILE

Mr. Henry Rotich, nominee Cabinet Secretary to the National Treasury. FILE 

By GEOFFREY IRUNGU

Posted  Wednesday, April 24  2013 at  21:21

In Summary

  • If approved, Mr Rotich will face a daunting task dealing with the egos of his seniors and peers he will now supervise.
  • Mr Rotich’s seniors at the Treasury include Joseph Kinyua, Geoffrey Mwau, Justus Nyamunga, Paul Ngugi and Kamau Thugge.
  • He is taking charge of government finances with deep knowledge of the issues having worked at the Treasury for many years.
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If confirmed as the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, macroeconomics expert Henry Rotich will become the man history has given a chance to make the most significant changes in the management of Kenya's public finance.

Recognised nationally as a seasoned civil servant with solid credentials to spearhead reforms, Mr Rotich will face a daunting task dealing with the egos of his seniors and peers he will now supervise.

Unlike his predecessors, Mr Rotich is taking charge of government finances with deep knowledge of the issues having worked at the Treasury for many years.

That weakens even further the influence that senior and long-serving Treasury bureaucrats will have over him, putting him instead in a strong position to supervise them.

As the government’s money man-in-chief Mr Rotich will have to employ his management experience to command a workforce that includes people who have been senior to him.

The list of senior Treasury officials who will have reversed roles in their working relationship with Mr Rotich includes Mutua Kilaka, the Finance secretary and the effective chief accounting officer, and Dr Geoffrey Mwau, the Economic secretary.

Dr Mwau, who has worked at the Treasury with the support of the World Bank, is arguably the most transparent Treasury executive, having positioned himself as an outsider without bureaucratic hang-ups.

Mr Nyamunga served as Mr Rotich’s immediate boss in the Economic Affairs department and will now report to him.

Other senior Treasury mandarins who sat above Mr Rotich are Mr Ngugi, Director of Budget, and Dr Thugge, an International Monetary Fund-backed adviser on fiscal decentralisation. Dr Thugge is in the list of those who have applied for the position of principal secretary.

Some analysts said that as long as Mr Rotich has the experience and skills he needs to command the respect of the people he has been working with, he should get a soft landing on the job.

High level competence

“It does not matter that much that he has been appointed ahead of his seniors as long as they recognise that the appointment is backed by high level competence and experience,” said Paulino Mutegi, a long-serving director and tax expert at audit firm Ernst & Young and now with Tax Trail Consultants.

As a macroeconomist Mr Rotich has been one of the few specialists in his field a position that earned him respected at the Treasury.

Budget expert John Mutua of the Institute of Economic Affairs said Mr Rotich has the experience that is needed to run the Treasury but added he will become a closely watched man due to the centrality of the National Treasury in government.

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