Big promise flops

Published on 28/03/2009

By Alex Ndegwa

Prime Minister Raila Odinga gave the impression his office was up and running in his first televised State of the nation address in which he defended the performance of the Coalition Government.

Coming days after the Church’s criticism of an “ineffective Prime Minister” and “moribund President”, Raila said there is a transition period within which certain executive functions are transferred from the Office of the President to PM’s office in line with the power sharing deal.

But the PM skirted the issue that was on the lips of everyone by avoiding any direct reference to the sacking of corrupt ministers, even after prodding by reporters during the 40-minute address at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Friday. The only vague pointer to dismissals was in his response to a question whether heads would roll in the Police Force, Judiciary and the State Law Office, three institutions he singled out as obstacles to the war against corruption.

“It is the weaknesses that are responsible for excesses. We will carry out institutional reforms and in that process some people may have to go,” Raila said.

Ignored Direct Question

But the PM ignored a direct question on when President Kibaki and him would crack the whip on ministers and senior Government officials, implicated in corruption. But he said the war against graft was being waged discreetly because “not everything that we do can be trumpeted so loudly.” Raila instead said he would defend the Coalition Government against charges that it is more corrupt than any other, arguing the scandals rocking it paled in comparison to the Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing scams.

“There is nothing, whether maize, oil, tourism, selling hotels or whatever else, that approaches the magnitude of the scandals of yesteryear, such as Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing,” he said.

He, however, said that was not downplaying the scams through which banks lost Sh7 billion in the Triton oil scandal while national stores were unscrupulously emptied of grain at a time 10 million Kenyans were on the brink of starvation.

“I have no time for corruption. Neither has President Kibaki, and we both intend to continue leading by example,” Raila said. Raila strove to explain the important role his office, created last year following the February 28 power sharing deal – played in Government and that he had teeth to bite.

“The PM chairs five of six Cabinet sub-committees, which shows the bulk of the Cabinet work is under my direction,” he said. He added there was no conflict between his office and the Office of the President because the two are complementary. Asked about the turf wars between his office and that of the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, the PM stamped his authority.

Turf Wars

“I won’t speak about the PS in the Office of the President (Head of the Civil Service Francis Muthaura) because he is a civil servant under the PM,” he replied. Raila dismissed concerns about the bickering in the Cabinet, saying it was not unusual to have ministers disagreeing publicly in Grand Coalition Government.

Raila took stock of the achievements of the Coalition Government, citing the Justice Kriegler Commission, whose recommendations have been acted upon to disband the Electoral Commission, Justice Phillip Waki commission on post-election violence, enactment of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission Act, and oncoming constitutional review.

He noted the launch of the Sh15 billion Kazi kwa Vijana programme meant to create 300, 000 jobs, and the war against graft, which he said was being done discreetly as shown by ‘dossiers’ compiled by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, Efficient Monitoring Unit, and the Inspectorate of State Corporations.

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