Election fever has gripped major government departments with service delivery mostly neglected two weeks to the General Election.
At the same time, some crafty section heads are taking advantage of the fever to either award themselves or their cronies promotions in fragrant disregard of procedures provided for by the Public Service Commission.
Some of the officers who have been serving in acting capacities have also been confirmed under unclear circumstances.
A spot check by the Nation points to general lethargy with mostly political appointees in public service staying away from work due to anxiety that the elections bring.
But, by virtue of being at the centre of election preparations, giving security and logistical assistance to the electoral commission, the Interior Ministry has become a beehive of activity with staff coming under immense pressure to deliver under stricter timelines.
Long and unexplained absence has become commonplace, a trend insiders say will only normalise about one or two months after the August 8 polls after the winner of the presidential election settles in office.
An officer in the Devolution ministry said the last one week has been the poorest in terms of job attendance as campaigns get to the final stretch with pollsters predicting a close contest between the two leading presidential contenders, President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee Party) and Nasa’s Raila Odinga.
A sizeable number of employees have had their leave requests approved, more so those registered in constituencies away from their work stations, to enable them to travel and vote.
It is the exact opposite at the Interior docket where leave and off-days for mostly security officers have been put on ice until after the elections.
Public Service Commission Human Resources Department has recorded the highest number of leave requests and subsequent approvals in the last seven months.
This is according to a senior officer who did not want to be named for discussing internal matters without authorisation.
Another staff member from the Foreign Affairs ministry regretted an increasing sense of suspicion and tension between those supporting President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“In our ministry, it is not unusual to see secretaries reporting to work to only pick messages and documents before taking them to their bosses out of station for signing,” another employee said.
Prof Margaret Kobia, the chairperson of the Public Service Commission, denied that the government was in a near-shutdown mode.
She, however, admitted that performance had taken a serious beating because of the looming polls.
“World over, the month of election is perceived to be slow and people may not turn up for services,” she said, warning public servants not to engage in politics.
On questionable promotions, she said it had not come to her attention.
“PSC receives quarterly reports on HR management and we have not identified any illegal promotions as yet. The scheme of service is clear on how promotion is done,” Prof Kobia said.
The country has about 100,000 civil servants.
It started with cabinet secretaries who, out of fear of being rendered jobless in the event President Kenyatta loses in the August 8 contest, joining the campaign trail to drum up support for him but now, even junior officers have joined the fray as others who have nothing at stake take advantage of the situation to keep away from work.
The pattern is replicated in the counties with areas where governors’ second term bids hang by a thread being the most affected.
There is grounded belief that new county chiefs will likely instigate wanton purge through county public service boards to reward their loyalists with jobs.
The CSs have defended their presence in rallies, saying that highlighting President Kenyatta’s achievements in the last four years did not amount to campaigns.
They move around with technical managers to implement some of the directives in what further deprives their offices of manpower.
Even though Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed denies reports that the Jubilee Administration had recalled all ambassadors and deployed them to the campaign trail like has been the case with those with roots from Western Kenya ahead of August 8 election, evidence on the ground depicts a different picture.
Coming from Western region herself, the CS has been seen in the company of six envoys among them the Ambassador to DRC Congo George Masafu, Florence Weche (India), Bramwel Kisuya (Spain), Patrick Wamoto (Thailand) pitching for Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.
Addressing the public at the launch of Inua Jamii, a government initiative to register those who are 70 years and above for social protection programme in Kakamega County, Ms Mohamed said there is nothing wrong for them to attend such important functions by the government.
“I have heard those rumours (that we have joined politicians to campaign) and I’m quite shocked. Since schools have closed most of the ambassadors have taken leave to come and stay with their families,” she defended.
Coming at the height of campaigns, it was the first time the CS was touring Kakamega County to launch projects since she was appointed a cabinet secretary.
She did not miss the opportunity to pitch for Mr Kenyatta’s re-election.
“This is a programme that all of us attach importance to and we want it to continue next year. I am appealing to you to think about it as you vote in the coming election,” she said amid applause from the public.
Her sentiments were shared by the diplomats.
Union of Kenya Civil Servants Acting Secretary-General Jerry ole Kina confirmed that the election fever had permeated the service.
“This is not because of affiliation to any of the political blocs but because finances for the normal functioning of the various ministries are not forthcoming from the Treasury,” he said.
Mr Kina pointed out that the ongoing industrial action by sections of workers like nurses had, together with delayed implementation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed with government, compounded the situation.
“Members are not sure whether they will be paid the proposed pay at month end. Now tell me, in the event of lack of such assurance and with the rising cost of living, would you report to work and be as productive?” he asked.
The Council of Governors chairman Josephat Nanok has also lamented that Jubilee administration had not remitted funds to the devolved units.
Fear the cash could be diverted to the campaigns has been cited as a reason by some operatives at the Exchequer.
While the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich was not available for his input, a senior director in his office who did not want to be named dashed the hopes of governors receiving the cash, saying, “How do you send money to a person who could probably be on his way out after the elections? You do not expect such a person to be frugal in spending such cash.”
He referred us to Section 17 (7) of the Public Finance Management Act which stipulates that the disbursements of funds to the counties shall be done in accordance with a schedule prepared by the National Treasury in consultation with the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council, with the approval of the Senate, and published in the Gazette, as approved, not later than May 30 every year.
But since the Senate has not been recalled to ratify the schedule given that most lawmakers are busy in the campaigns, some defending their seats as others seek other offices, this is unlikely to be the case with just a few days to the polls.
Like their counterparts in the national government, an increasing number of county government staff are not to be found at their work stations.
The government has been hard-pressed to explain away allegations that it had redirected (illegally) monies meant for various ministries to help Mr Kenyatta secure a second term in office.
Incessant complaints by school heads that only 12.5 and not 30 per cent of annual capitation had been sent to schools for second term have helped reinforce the allegation even as the opposition coalition Nasa claims that President Kenyatta had deployed State resources to his campaigns. Jubilee luminaries deny this claim.