Kenya: Henry Rotich, the Yes-Man Who's Always Eager to Please

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (right) and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge at a Milimani court in Nairobi on July 23, 2019.
opinion

Henry Rotich was plucked from a low-profile job at the macroeconomics department of the National Treasury in 2013 to be in charge of the most lucrative Cabinet position.

President Uhuru Kenyatta must have spotted him during his stint as Finance minister.

After taking office, Mr Rotich, an economist, quickly earned a reputation as a yes-man, always eager to please, and the master of debt.

He would rather take a fresh loan to fund the latest item on the government's wish list than just say no.

MPS' ALLOWANCES

Pushed into a tight corner, he handed MPs billions of taxpayers' money to illegally pay themselves hefty house allowances at a time when all revenue indicators in the country were flashing red.

He inherited a ministry that had worked hard to remove Kenya from the list of countries that would crush without budget support.

In under six years, Kenya has borrowed so much that it cannot meet its expenditure needs without budget support.

His eagerness to please has worked for him at times.

BORROWING LIMIT

In his early days as the Finance boss, he easily convinced Parliament to raise the country's borrowing limit, a decision that would later come to haunt the country.

He also got Parliament to support an unpopular decision to introduce Value Added Tax on food, fuel and other basic commodities, despite public uproar.

But it is also one of his greatest weaknesses, which now threatens to destroy his career, with the Kimwarer and Arror dam saga hanging over his head.

He is currently facing charges of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to section 317 of the penal code, engaging in a project without prior planning, abuse of office, wilful failure to comply with the law applicable to public finance management and committing an offence of financial misconduct.

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