How Ruto is working to end beef with Uhuru over retirement benefits

President William Ruto and his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday held talks over his retirement benefits standoff following a series of behind-the-scenes engagements involving Head of Public Service Felix Koskei, the Nation has established.

President Ruto and Mr Kenyatta spoke on the phone at length yesterday morning, with fresh details now indicating that the former president had on Monday held a meeting with Mr Koskei to address some of his grievances, including alleged refusal to disburse more than Sh1 billion as well as the row over his office. It was the Monday meeting, according to State House sources, that paved the way for the phone conversation.

In the meeting with the Head of Public Service, Mr Kenyatta reportedly requested that he be allowed to use his residence on Nairobi’s Dennis Pritt Road next to State House, popularly known as Caledonia, as his office.

He also requested for additional security to guard the Kenyatta family’s many homes, spread across Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru counties. The retired president also requested for additional staff. There has been a standoff over the renewal of contracts for Ms Kanze Dena, who served as President Kenyatta’s spokesperson and is now designated secretary, communication, and Mr George Kariuki, who was designated as secretary, administration.

Yesterday, State House announced that Dr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta had agreed to constitute a team led by Mr Koskei to address all the grievances at the heart of the current row that escalated on Monday following a press briefing by Ms Dena. According to State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed, the team will address all the concerns raised, including the location of Mr Kenyatta’s office, facilitation of his official duties as well as staff requirements.

“This morning, President William Ruto had a conversation with his predecessor in office, the fourth president, President Uhuru Kenyatta, regarding concerns about facilitating the functioning of the retired president’s office,” Mr Mohamed said.

“President Ruto has consequently constituted a team, led by the Head of Public Service, to immediately address all the issues raised, including the location of the retired president’s office and the attendant staff establishment,” he said.

President Ruto gave instructions for security organs to quickly address Mr Kenyatta’s security concerns. Mr Koskei has also been instructed to engage the Public Service Commission (PSC) to address Mr Kenyatta’s request for additional staff. The move by President Ruto to address the matter comes barely a day after Mr Kenyatta questioned the whereabouts of more than Sh1 billion allocated to his office in the previous and current financial years.

Mr Kenyatta – through Ms Dena – on Monday pointed an accusing finger at State House for frustrating his operations. Citing the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, the former president insisted that his entitlement to his benefits was not a favour. Ms Dena accused State House of denying the retired president a budget to run his office, saying he has not received a cent despite being allocated Sh503 million in the current financial year. His office was allocated Sh655 million in the 2022/23 financial year.

“In the year 2022/23, Parliament allocated Sh655 million to this office. To date the office can only confirm spending Sh28 million on allowances for domestic travel as well as facilitation of the two official trips that have been honoured so far… The total amount for the two years that we have not had access to is approximately 1 billion Kenya Shillings,” Ms Dena said. She noted that whereas Mr Kenyatta’s pension and allowances as well as medical insurance have been paid, no other monies spent can be accounted for by the office of the former president. Mr Kenyatta has also reportedly not received new vehicles as stipulated in law and he is forced to use the old transition fleet, “which State House has refused to fuel and maintain”.

According to documents in our possession, Mr Kenyatta through his private secretary Kinuthia Mbugua, had on May 9, 2023 written to State House Comptroller Katoo Ole Metito requesting for official vehicles. Two days later, Mr Metito, through Mr John Makumi, requested Mr Kenyatta’s office to “urgently specify the make and preferred colour of the vehicles” for further action.

However, State House later regretted that the cost of the four state-of-the-art vehicles had exceeded the Sh140 million budget. On the issue of Mr Kenyatta’s office, Ms Dena pointed out that State House has been clear that Mr Kenyatta should use the Nyari office based on the fact that it was bought by the government.

“It is important to note that the Nyari office was selected by the late President Mwai Kibaki as a suitable office space for himself.” In the 2022/23 and the 2023/24 financial years, Sh20 million was approved each year for ‘rentals of produced assets’ under allocations for the retirement president, suggesting an initial consideration to lease his property before the decision was rescinded. The provision has been scrapped in the projected estimates for 2024/25 to 2026/27 financial years.

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