DEPUTY President William Ruto will coordinate and supervise ministries in the next government, following discussions with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The two have been working on Ruto’s job description since the constitution does not define the role of the Deputy President, other than stating he is the President’s ‘Principal Assistant’.
The job is similar to the role performed by Raila Odinga as Prime Minister in the coalition government since 2008. However Ruto is likely to have more power and authority than Raila as he will name half the Cabinet under the terms of the Jubilee coalition agreement while his URP party has large blocs in both the National Assembly and the Senate.
Also, constitutionally, he cannot be fired by the president. Yesterday Ruto called former Raila and had a wide ranging discussion.
He apparently thanked Raila for his statement the previous day that he was ready to engage constructively and emphasised the need for Raila to work together with the Uhuru administration to unite the country.
“They cracked a lot of jokes as they chatted,” said a source familiar with the conversation. Ruto later moved into the Prime Minister’s former office on Harambee Avenue which has now been renamed Office of the Deputy President.
He arrived at 10am in the company of Kericho Senator Charles Keter and was received by PS Mohammed Isahakia and other staff.
A jovial Ruto greeted the staff, most whom he knew by name, before being taken to his office on the second floor then to tour the other offices in the building.
In his brief address outside the office, Ruto disclosed that he had talked to Odinga earlier in the morning who expressed his best wishes.
“It is time to roll up our sleeves, pull up socks and go to work for the people of Kenya,” he told the staff outside his office. “I am ready for work. We will be on the 2nd floor. We are committed to offering service to all Kenyans.Welcome,” Ruto posted on Facebook.
The decision to delegate supervision of government to Ruto will allow Uhuru deal with other functions of the Presidency, according to sources in State House.
The Constitution states that the Deputy President can perform the functions of the President, as assigned by the head of st ate or when he is absent.
Previously, the Vice-President could double up as a minister but the constitution now bars the Deputy President from holding any other office.
Article 132 (3b) says that the President will “direct and co-ordinate the functions of ministries and government departments.” It is this responsibility that is being handed over to Ruto.
The two also have not forgotten that the ICC trials start on May 24 and one or both of them may be away at The Hague if their request for video-conferencing is denied.
Uhuru is insisting that he will continue consulting Ruto wherever possible and that the Deputy President should attend all crucial meetings that he is holding. Ruto’s new supervisory role was for the last five years vested under the Prime Minister’s office as per the National Accord.
Ruto has already taken up his new role. On Wednesday night he met top government officials at the Deputy President’s official residence in Karen to discuss how to mobilise support for those affected by the recent heavy floods.
At least 10 Permanent Secretaries, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo, and other disaster management officials attended.
Ruto tasked the team to assess the damage caused by the ongoing heavy rains that have caused the deaths of tens of people and displaced thousands.The Deputy President called on residents in areas prone to floods and landslides to move to safer areas to avert disaster.
Yesterday, Uhuru and Ruto met with Permanent Secretaries from the Ministries of Special Programmes, Housing, Roads, Education, Agriculture, Medical Services, Public Health and Finance to draw up the government agenda before the Cabinet is established.
The meeting at State House in Nairobi was also attended by senior security chiefs including National Intelligence Service chief General Michael Gichangi. In the morning, Uhuru and Ruto met all 47 Governors at State House with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
Uhuru asked the governors to focus on the development and avoid engaging in sideshows. On Wednesday evening, Uhuru announced that the Grand Coalition Government had ceased to exists when he took over the Presidency and instructed that PSs temporarily act as ministers.
Uhuru and Ruto are expected to announce their first Cabinet next Monday, the before Parliament starts sitting. The vetting committee will have to approve Cabinet secretaries before they can formally take office.