Esther Ngero: Skilled negotiator quits plum PS job to mark one of shortest stints after reshuffling


Esther Ngero who quit PS job to mark one of the shortest stints. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH BARASA | NMG

When the Public Service Commission (PSC) announced vacancies for the positions of Principal Secretaries under William Ruto’s administration last September, more than 9,000 people applied for the jobs.

From this, the PSC made a shortlist of 477 applicants. Eventually, 51 were picked.

The Kenya Kwanza administration looked up to the 51 men and women to deliver its promises to Kenyans, including reducing the cost of living, creating jobs and turning around the economy.

Esther Ngero was picked as Principal Secretary (PS) for Delivery and Performance Management in the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

When she appeared for vetting in Parliament, Ms Ngero impressed the committee members with her negotiation skills.

The 45-year-old said she is a negotiator having been instrumental in managing and negotiating contracts with governments and had built a network in the oil sector.

Promise at vetting

Ms Ngero said she had built teams that deliver at her place of work. Before seeking to join the government, Ms Ngero had largely worked in the private sector, 18 years in the oil and gas sector.

She promised to make things work as a PS by focusing on operational efficiency.

In the Prime Cabinet Secretary's office was another PS, Aurelio Rono, who was in charge of Parliamentary Affairs.

“The nominee demonstrated knowledge of topical, administrative and technical issues touching on government and has the requisite abilities, qualifications and experience to serve as a Principal Secretary for Delivery and Performance Management,” the committee endorsed her.

All was well for Ms Ngero until last week when the President reshuffled six PSs, among them Ms Ngero, who was moved to Correctional Services under the Ministry of Interior.

The mini-reshuffle was necessitated by the sacking of Public Health PS Josephine Mburu over a mosquito net scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.

The move appears not to have gone down well with Ms Ngero who tendered her resignation and cited personal reasons for opting out of the job.

Resignations are rare among government officials in Kenya and Ms Ngero’s was quite a surprise.

Ms Ngero’s docket before the transfer covered performance and delivery management, assisting government departments with performance contracting management, supporting public institutions to ensure accountability as well as monitoring and delivery of government projects and programmes.

The former chief executive officer at Dalbit International, a Dubai petroleum products supply and distribution company, said she had worked with people of diverse backgrounds and it would not be difficult to execute her tasks in government.

She even said the bureaucracies in the government would not detract her from ensuring that the results are delivered.

Sh260 million

Born in Nyeri County in December 1977, Ms Ngero holds a bachelor’s degree in Education, where she majored in business studies and mathematics from Kenyatta University.

She also holds a certificate in supply and refining and another one in petroleum stocks control and management from the Kenya School of Petroleum Studies.

The alumna of Njonjo Girls High School had 18 years of experience in the oil and gas sector, 10 of which were in senior management, probably giving the much-needed qualification for a PS job as an accounting officer.

Other than serving as the CEO of the company in Dubai for three years, Ms Ngero had previously served in the same capacity in the Kenya office for a period of five years and before that, as a general manager and regional head of supply, operations manager and accountant for 10 years.

She told Parliament during her vetting for the PS role that she is worth Sh260 million, mostly in real estate, mutual funds, infrastructural bonds, farm machinery, private lending and cash in the bank.

Her private lending, she revealed, amounted to Sh30 million and she makes a monthly income of Sh4.5 million.

Ms Ngero is involved in charity work by paying fees for secondary and university students.

Ms Ngero said, on average, she spends up to Sh75,000 per month on paying fees, something she has been doing since 2018.

She is also involved in mentorship and coaching young women professionals and managing career growth and parenting.

The parliamentary departmental committee vetting her noted that despite having served in the private sector for most of her working career, she was suitable for the job given that she had worked with people of diverse backgrounds.

Formulating targets

Her role, the committee said, involved working on a broad spectrum of issues involving co-ordination of activities which is a vital experience required for the position of PS.

She indicated that she was passionate about performance management and if approved, she would focus on a structure that emphasises clear performance management.

“Her expertise in formulating measurable targets would come in handy to deliver on performance management,” the committee said.

She had promised to focus her energies on performance and delivery management, timely delivery of projects and programmes and performance excellence, which she said would be key to achieving the deliverables.

Ms Ngero said she would ensure that contracts entered into by the State Department are lawful and meet timeliness in financial reporting.

Her stay in the government was, however, short-lived and Ms Ngero quietly left the government scene probably headed back to her previous field or choosing another career path.

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