Ruto’s economic adviser defends State House spending under public scrutiny

President William Ruto’s economic adviser David Ndii on Saturday came to the defence of the coterie of advisers at State House who were revealed this week to be racking up a Sh1.1 billion annual bill to the taxpayer.

In a series of replies on his official X (formerly Twitter) account, Dr Ndii mocked opponents of the proposals, suggesting that even waste in government helps boost the economy. 

Dr Ndii, who chairs President Ruto’s Council of Economic Advisers, slammed Kenyans who called out the advisers, and termed Kenya Kwanza a thinking government.

The advisers’ annual outlay of Sh1.1 billion is an increase from the previous financial year’s expenditure of Sh977 million. 

The advisory units, comprising six distinct entities, primarily utilise these funds for salaries, travel expenses, and entertainment purposes, from the total allocation of Sh759 million. 

This significant financial commitment towards presidential advisers comes at a time when the government is actively seeking to curtail unnecessary expenditures, such as those related to overseas trips and hospitality to reduce the fiscal deficit.

On Saturday, Kenyans took to X and wanted to exactly know what they do and Dr Ndii went toe-to-toe with them addressing several issues that were raised. 

Interestingly, Dr Ndii has been an advocate of budget reductions, particularly for non-essential expenditures as Kenya strives to achieve a balanced budget within the next three years.

Vincent Ogero asked him where are the advisers based. “Pray tell me why are they paid entertainment allowance? Is the SRC and CoB Kenya agreeable to such perks and how does one qualify to be an adviser? Is there competitive recruitment through the @PSCKenya? 

“Advisers are not paid entertainment allowance. The budget is for meetings. Our job entails policy development and implementation oversight. That means convening meetings typically 3-4 per day with 10-30 people each. The biggest facility in our office is boardrooms,” Dr Ndii replied.

Paul Kiarie: “Why there are no advisers on technology, agriculture, manufacturing, education etc.? Things that actually matter to lift Kenya from a poor country. This country is hopeless.” 

Dr Ndii quickly named all six advisers on the agriculture docket as Augustine Cheruiyot (Agribusiness and Finance), Prof Abdi Guliye (Animal Production), Dr. Dominic Menjo (Food security and Animal production), Dr. Nancy Laiboni, (Agricultural Economics), Henry Kinyua (Crops/value chains) and Steven Otieno (Cooperatives).

Interestingly, Prof Guliye, a former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission member had not been publicly revealed before as a Ruto adviser. 

Moses Shauri posed: “How many members of staff does his office have? Does the President’s economic advisor need bodyguards, drivers cooks, gardeners. All these just to advise the President?”

“10 Cabinet Secretary/Principal Secretary level advisers of which 5 PhDs (4 professors) and 15 support staff with zero bodyguards,” Dr Ndii simply told him. 

“By your own admission if all those advisers exist in Agriculture. Why then do we need two CASs for both State Departments of Agriculture and Livestock Development that have their own PSs in charge?” Jude Owuor followed. 

To this, the Oxford University-trained economist posed: “Why do CEOs of companies like Safaricom and Equity that have top $ managers also retain expensive consultants? Why do Fortune 500 companies pay just three consulting firms McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Bain $30b a year?” 

Also Read: How President Ruto’s spending in 17 months compares to Uhuru, Kibaki

At some point, Dr Ndii quoted Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, saying: “Moses Kuria on how Presidents advisors earn their keep. “It’s like a small university”. This is a thinking administration.”

For hours, it seemed Kenyans were not satisfied and kept asking more questions with Dr Ndii far from relenting. 

He added that there was a reason the president has advisers and went on to quote his boss when he blasted some of his Cabinet Secretaries who are in office but have no clue about their dockets. 

“People here do not want to read. If I know more than you about what is in your Ministry, then you should not be part of this. Why are you a Cabinet Secretary if you don’t understand your job?” What do the President’s advisers do, and who is fighting them?” He captioned the quote.

“It is the function of Ministries to develop policies and implement those policies, not advisers.” Another Kenyan said. 

Dr Ndii in his wisdom replied that this was not true. 

“In presidential systems, the President provides strategic leadership implementing his/her election pledges. We wrote the Manifesto. It stands to reason that we have a better idea on how to implement it than ministries. We are the vision carriers.”

He also said that he championed the removal of citizens being vetted to acquire IDs after he was asked why the government has allowed it. “Good example. We did. I championed it. It’s in our manifesto. Ditto operationalisation of PBO Act. The bureaucracy was against and pushing back against both,” he said. 

Another Kenyan wanted to know why the president needed advisers over his Cabinet Secretaries. 

“Cabinet Secretaries should be in a position to advise him if not, they should be replaced by his expensive advisers like @DavidNdii who may be wiser than whoever is holding those dockets.”

“The US has a Treasury Secretary as well as White House Council of Economic Advisers and a Budget Office (OMB). Chair of the council and Director of OMB are Cabinet members. Also Defence Secretary and National Security Advisor, both in Cabinet. There must be some logic to it,” Dr Ndii replied. 

He also denied that the government pays for oil imports in dollars instead of Kenya shillings. 

“You can confirm with the oil marketing companies that they pay in shillings. They no longer have to run around looking for $. They will also confirm that the G-to-G has insulated them from exchange rate risk exposure that was putting small local OMCs out of business.”

Alongside Dr Ndii on the council are esteemed members such as Mohammed Hassan, a distinguished investment banker, and Dr Nancy Laibuni, formerly associated with the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra). 

Dr Ndii’s team has been allocated Sh194.5 million, with Sh88 million earmarked for travel expenses, Sh23 million for entertainment, and Sh9.4 million for communication items like mobile phones and airtime, in addition to salaries.

Another prominent figure within the advisory ranks is Henry Rotich who previously served as Cabinet Secretary in the National Treasury for six years. Rotich currently holds the position of senior adviser and head of the Office of Fiscal Affairs and Budget Policy in addition to his role on the council. 

In February, Dr Rotich assumed his current position after being acquitted of corruption charges related to Sh63 billion tenders for Arror and Kimwarer dams. His office has been allocated a budget of Sh100 million, with Sh41 million earmarked for travel expenses.

Dr Rotich’s economic advisers have been instrumental in shaping Kenya Kwanza’s controversial policy decisions, including the implementation of various tax measures.

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