President William Ruto has once again raised doubts about his commitment to austerity in government, with last week’s appointment of 50 chief administrative secretaries (CASs).
The role of CASs in Kenya’s administrative structure has always been controversial after the equivalent positions of assistant ministers were omitted from the 2010 Constitution to underscore the need for a lean government.
Aside from offering a president more positions to reward cronies and manage regional politics, it adds little value to the country’s public service delivery.
President Ruto’s appointments are particularly abhorrent due to their sheer number and the insensitivity of committing more than half a billion shillings for the CASs’ annual salaries and benefits at a time a majority of Kenyans are grappling with the high cost of living and food shortages attributed to a prolonged drought.
Unlike the past when food shortages and high food prices mostly worried low-income groups in rural areas and informal urban settlements, the current food crisis hasn’t spared the middle class.
Retailers have reported a recent trend of middle-class households increasingly prioritising spending on food items while dropping others like electronics and clothing from their shopping budgets.
The hundreds of millions of shillings being set aside to keep President Ruto’s 50 CASs — more than double the number appointed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta — in office would have been better spent on government programmes with the potential to make life much more bearable for the majority Kenyans.