Intrigues behind the failure to resolve the doctors’ strike deepened Tuesday when a Cabinet Secretary accused his Principal Secretary of failure to honour his appointment to be part of the mediation committee.
Health Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu accused his PS Nicholas Muraguri of insubordination saying he not only turned down the appointment to lead a four member team from the Ministry but went ahead to appoint his replacement.
Dr Mailu told the Senate Health Committee that Dr Muraguri sent him a memo on February 8 saying he was unable to represent the ministry in the talks to resolve the doctors’ stalemate due to other commitments of national importance.
The negotiations were being spearheaded by Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori following a court ruling.
Mr Muraguri recommended that a Mr Francis Musyimi leads the team from the Ministry, when ideally he could have left it to his boss to decide an alternative person.
The committee chaired by Dr Wilfred Machage appeared infuriated by the Cabinet Secretary’s failure to stamp his authority over his juniors and demanded that he resigns for allowing public hospitals to remain paralysed for more than three months.
Senators Dr Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Dr Wilfred Lesan (Bomet), Zipporah Kittony (nominated), Godliver Omondi (nominated) and Mvita Mshenga (nominated) said the differences in Afya House are to blame for the strike.
“You write a memo to the PS appointing him to the mediation. Your PS writes another memo appointing another name. Are you in command of the Ministry of Health? Is the PS responding to your commands as the CS?” Dr Machage asked.
Dr Khalwale and Ms Omondi said the Cabinet Secretary should resign for allowing doctors to be punished when it is their differences with his PS that have derailed the process.
“You are refusing to speak to this issue because doctors are in jail for your failure to bring the PS to negotiate with them…You have punished doctors instead of punishing your PS.
“You are the driver of policy as the CS. You are painting a picture of a helpless person being subjected to insubordination by your junior. If you can’t solve this problem, resign as CS, and let this rot go to somebody else. You are embarrassing us as doctors,” Dr Khalwale said.
But the CS downplayed the infighting claims saying the government was committed to end the stalemate that have left patients suffering.
“In management and administration, we call that insubordination. We can’t call that fighting. The interpretation to me is insubordination. I will leave it at that,” Dr Mailu said without disclosing how he will deal with the matter.
The Senators demanded that the Cabinet Secretary moves with speed to secure release of the seven union officials, who have been locked up in different prisons, for contempt of court.
“You have failed this country. You are not making proper use of your office. If these negotiations don’t end, there is no need for you being in office. You rather step aside,” said Ms Omondi.
Prof Lesan regretted that the CS was not doing much to end the strike and had allowed his PS to interfere with efforts to ensure doctors resume work.
“Somebody has in subordinated your office and you just ignored. This is a tradition now to insubordinate your office by everybody. Do everything possible to win the confidence of doctors and ensure they leave jail tonight,” Prof Lesan said.
Dr Machage questioned why the mediation report was not signed by the Cabinet Secretary or his PS to demonstrate his commitment to end the process.
“The agreement signed on February 12 is not legal according to this committee because there is no CS signature or the PS who is the accounting officer,” Dr Machage said.
But the CS said the ministry cannot be blamed for any defects or lack of procedure in coming with the document, because it was the work of the mediation committee.
The committee agreed that the session be adjourned to allow the CS push for the release of the doctors and return accompanied by the PS on Wednesday at 10 o’clock, ready to explain concrete measures to end the impasse.