Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Kobia shares her journey to an efficient Public Service and a clean NYS

Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Kobia shares her journey to an efficient Public Service and a clean NYS

Share with us your journey to becoming a Cabinet Secretary, from your days in high school.
I never knew I would become a Cabinet secretary at any one point. However, I always knew education was important.  Ever since I was in primary school, my parents always said that to get out of the environment we lived in that involved doing a lot of shamba work, I had to get good education. I looked up to my teachers. They were mostly women and were smart. They also seemed to have a better quality of life at home. I endeavoured to do well in order to be like them. When I joined Alliance High school, I met more female teachers who were even more smart and I kept dreaming bigger. My dreams kept on changing.

So where does it all start?
I started my career at Ngara Girls where I taught for four years. I needed to do something else because it had become monotonous. I moved to the Kenya National Examination Council as a test developer and researcher. While at the examination council, I realised I needed a masters and the government offered me a scholarship to study at Kenyatta University. I taught at Kenyatta University and at the same time did administration.
 A time came that if one needed a promotion, they must be in possession of a PhD. Knowing that this too hindered women, I applied for a PhD at Kenyatta University, but there was not much progress because of issues like lack of supervisors and strikes.

What happened next?
I moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where I did my PhD in education and entrepreneurship. I came back and went to teach at Strathmore. While I was at Strathmore, the Kenya School of Government advertised for the position of a director.

How was it like serving as a director?
I served this position for eight years. While serving as a director, I realised the difference between leadership in men and women. The staff had the trouble addressing me, other people left because they found my administration very difficult, all the same, I shared my vision of the school and I am proud of how it is now. When the new Constitution came, the government advertised the position of a chairperson for the Public Service Commission. It had never had a female chair since its establishment. I always went an extra mile in my work and God is always on my side, so I got the position.

You inherited a docket bedevilled by corruption, poor work ethics, and poor work delivery; how does the cleaning process look like now?
When I joined the ministry of Public Service and Gender, we had a big challenge with National Youth Service; we had lost money. There was NYS I and II. We sat to understand the challenges and root causes of the malpractices, we realised that as long as youth service is a department in the public service, it would never perform because of lack of proper oversight and it had a huge budget. This made it an avenue for recruiting youths and the President was so passionate about it. Upon analysing the situation, we saw the need to put structures on how the National Youth Service would be run. We recruited an oversight board, we reviewed the whole procurement procedure to be compliant with what is expected by the government. This is my fourth year in youth service and no money has been stolen.

What still gives you sleepless nights?
I think if money is ever lost in this NYS, after what happened to one and two, I would not be able to face the president and explain. This would definitely keep me up at night.

Youths and women suffered a big blow as a result of the Covid pandemic. What is the ministry doing about this?
As a government we have looked at expanding technical institutions, reviewed the curriculum and made people understand that universities were never meant to train people for jobs. University gives a broad liberal education so that you can be able to survive anywhere.

What can you tell qualified Kenyans suffering unemployment and waiting for a white collar job?
There are many Kenyans with university qualifications who think that they only went to school to get a job and sit in the office. But this is because most of us grew up hearing that we should go to school, pass exams and get a job, when this doesn’t work for them they lack other options and can’t think beyond that. We need to interact with the youth and let them know that being employed is no longer going to be possible. The education you get up to university should be an avenue to learn and not just sit and wait.

Work life integration is very difficult for women. You hold a powerful office, how do you balance?
Women struggle with work balance because nothing exempts you from being a mother or looking after your children and husband. In the office, I delegate a lot. I have a support team at home; it is okay to iron clothes and other basic things. It is important to invest in your family as much as you invest in your career. 

Everyone has a family; you must find a balance because you will always need your family. Women can have it all but you must be comfortable with what is said about you or around you and have clarity of what you want. They also need a coping strategy.

We don’t have a female presidential candidate 60 years into independence, what can we do about this?
This is a work in progress which will not just happen unless we come together as women and join with men then we start pursuing that goal. One day perhaps we will have a female vice president. If we become deliberate on our target, building capacity through training and exposure. I think one day, Kenya will get a female president.

As published in By Esther Dianah

Inaugural Inter-Ministerial Human Resource Management and Development Committee

Inaugural Inter-Ministerial Human Resource Management and Development Committee

The State Department for Public Service on 3rd September, 2021 held the inaugural Inter-Ministerial Human Resource Management and Development Committee meeting.

The committee has been established to develop frameworks for Human Resource Innovation; identify emerging issues and trends; research, propose and develop appropriate policies to ensure optimal staffing and redistribution; and to focus on career progression for the public service.

The Principal Secretary, Mrs. Kimonye who presided over the breakfast meeting held at Serena Hotel, noted that there’s need to identify areas of engagement and focus on the career progression for the public service.

“We need to focus and come up with clear guidelines on career progression in public service in order to address the existing gaps,” she said.

State Department for Interior and Citizen Services Human Resource Management Director, Mr. Benson Githua who is the Chairperson of the committee noted that streamlining and addressing matters that are human resource centered is critical in ensuring efficient and effective service delivery.

Also in attendance were directors of Human Resource Management and Development: Dr. Jacob Mbijjiwe, State Department for Public Service, Ms. Susan Mucheru, National Treasury, Mr. Paul Kang’ira, State Department For Early Learning and Basic Education, Mr. Albert Mokua, Ministry of Health among others.

By Charity Mongina

East African Community and Regional Development Staff Award Ceremony

East African Community and Regional Development Staff Award Ceremony

On 3rd September, 2021: The Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development held a staff recognition ceremony to award its staff members following the Performance Contract Evaluation for the financial year 2019/2020.

The Chief Guest, Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia, congratulated the Ministry for a job well done. Prof. Kobia said that due to rapid changes taking place globally, there is need to understand what is changing, why and how we can find a good fit in public service delivery.

The Cabinet Secretary urged Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to benchmark with the top performing ministries. “Moving on forward, MDAs should benchmark with the top performing Ministries in order to adopt best practice in Government Performance Management,” she said.

Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Regional Development, Mr. Adan Mohammed urged the staff to work harder and emerge first next time. “I want you to work even harder towards service delivery to emerge position one in the next evaluation,” he said.

The Ministry emerged third in the ministerial category. The staff members will receive 50% of their basic salary, State House staff members, who emerged first, will receive 100% of their basic salary while Treasury, who emerged second, will receive 75%.

New system to integrate data on public servants to be rolled out soon

New system to integrate data on public servants to be rolled out soon

The State Department for Public Service is in the final stages of developing a Unified Human Resource Information System which will help integrate public servants information into one system.

Consolidating Human Resource data and automating the Human Resource Management function on a unified platform is expected to, among other benefits, standardize Human Resource practices across the public service, minimize manual Human Resource processes, and create a trusted single source of Human Resource information for decision-making purposes.

In her remarks during the official opening of a 3-day workshop for the 2nd and final validation of the system held at Kenya School of Government from 2nd September, 2021, Principal Secretary, Mrs Mary Kimonye said that the development of the new system is an incredible milestone for the public service as it will help in monitoring areas that have had challenges in the past.

In January 2021, the State Department for Public Service appointed a task force of software developers to undertake the review and overhaul of the existing Human Resource software known as Government Human Resource Information System (GHRIS).

The task force produced a prototype of the Unified Human Resource (UHR) information system in April 2021 which underwent the initial validation on 4th May 2021 by internal stakeholders comprising the GHRIS Implementation Steering Committee, Human Resource Process owners, as well as Heads of Departments and Units.

Subsequently, the task force has constructed to full functionality three (3) modules prioritized for the 2020/2021 financial year namely Payroll Administration, Leave Management and Pension Claiming.

The workshop was attended by Human Resource Officers drawn from various public service institutions.

By Brian Kochwa

Huduma Kenya Service Leaders Workshop

Huduma Kenya Service Leaders Workshop

Principal Secretary, Mrs. Mary Kimonye presided over the opening ceremony of the Huduma Kenya Service Leaders Workshop at Kenya School of Government, Nairobi on 1st September, 2021.

The 3-day workshop was to train 52 Huduma Centre Managers from 52 Huduma Centres across the country to understand the structure, roles and responsibilities of a servant leader; review the service performance of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies; propose clear interventions for service delivery; adopt the one-stop-shop government policy for deployment and management of services, and chart the strategic direction as far as service delivery is concerned.

In her opening remarks, the Principal Secretary commended the centre managers for their innovativeness during the COVID-19 pandemic which ensured that public service delivery was not disrupted.

“I would like to recognise and appreciate the effort you have all put in during the pandemic which has ensured that service delivery was not disrupted. I note in particular that there were centres that sought partnership with different institutions to ensure that fumigation was done which was a demonstration of great leadership,” she said.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges in public service delivery. The containment and mitigation measures put in place by the Ministry of Health necessitated a rethink of the operations of public service delivery. Huduma adopted new approaches and innovations to service delivery such as Service by Appointment (SBA).

The workshop largely focused on financial management training in order to enhance the Finance, Accounting and Procurement skills of the managers.

Recently, the State Department for Public Service has devolved the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) to centre managers which will enable them fast track the acquisition of procurement items which is expected to improve service delivery in the centres.

Mrs. Kimonye urged the centre managers to play their role in “Building Back Better” for their country as they are are the main drivers of national development. She also urged them to uphold the Huduma values.

“Let us be true to our principles that entail professionalism, integrity, courtesy and transparency,” she said.

Present at the workshop opening ceremony was CEO Huduma Kenya, Mr. James Buyekane and Commissioner Titus Ndambuki from the State Department for Public Service among others.

State Department for Public Service Workshop on Performance Contracts

The State Department for Public Service held a two-day workshop on 30th and 31st August 2021 in Naivasha. The workshop sought to harmonise the State Department Performance Contracts.

The Government has used Performance Contracting as a key accountability tool since 2004 in its endeavour to improve service delivery in the Public Service. Performance Contracting is part of the broader public sector reforms aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness in the management of the public service.

The workshop which was attended by select Heads of Department and appointed Performance Contract champions assessed the government projects carried out by the different departments within the Ministry of Public Service and Gender for the FY 2020/2021 in order to ascertain the actual delivery level against the budget allocations to the State Department for the said financial year.

The following were the objectives of the workshop:

  1. To assess the implementation level of government projects being carried out under the Ministry of Public Service and Gender for the F2020/2021;
  2. To analyze and report on the government projects progress vis a vis the budget for the different State Departments within the Ministry of Public Service for the FY2020/2021; and
  3. To assess the challenges and emerging issues such as COVID-19 on the implementation of government projects under the Ministry of Public Service and Gender for the FY2021/2022.

Speaking during the opening ceremony in Sawela Lodge, Naivasha, Head of Central Planning and Project Monitoring Unit, Mr. David Kiboi, noted that performance contracting in the public service is pertinent in as far as measuring performance is concerned.

“If we don’t measure what we are doing, we will never get anything done. Performance Contracts ensure that what gets measured gets done,” he said.

Taking cognizance of the emerging realities of COVID-19, the Ministry of Public Service and Gender has developed a complete end-to-end online platform – the Government Performance Contracting Information System (GPCIS) towards automating the Performance Contracting process.

The system was used for the first time in FY 2020/21 to develop the FY 2020/21 Performance Contracts for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The system comprises a negotiation module, vetting module, review module and monitoring & reporting modules.

These modules are fully linked to provide a logical flow of the Performance Contracting process from target setting to monitoring of progress. The overall design of the GPCIS will have the potential for the development and generation of various management reports.

Commemoration of the National Gender and Equality Commission 10th Anniversary

Commemoration of the National Gender and Equality Commission 10th Anniversary

On 30th August, 2021: Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia, presided over the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) 10 years anniversary commemoration at Kenya School of Government.

The National Gender and Equality Commission commemorated 10 years since its establishment under the theme “Promoting Gender Equality and Freedom from Discrimination for Special Interest Groups”.

In her address, Prof. Kobia highlighted the need to reflect on the progress made in tackling barriers that hinder equal opportunities for both women and men reaching full potential.

“Today’s celebrations are a significant milestone realized over a long journey. While I recognize the country has made significant strides, the data on Global Gender Gap indicates visible barriers to an equal society for both men and women,” she said.

The Cabinet Secretary emphasised the need to partner and collaborate to address challenges and accelerate realization of gender equality in the country, noting that attaining Gender Equality requires a well-coordinated multi-sectoral approach.

Prof. Kobia recognised some of the gains that have been made including the significant increase of women in leadership and decision making at the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative levels.

Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, committed to work with the Commission towards gender equality advancement. “We at the Ministry of Devolution look forward to working together to achieve gender equality both at the County and National levels,” he said.

During the event, the Cabinet Secretary also launched key publications on gender equality and inclusion, which are:

  1. Scorecard for the evaluation of progress made by the State in the implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol scorecard);
  2. A Guide for County Government Leadership: Integration of Gender Equality, Inclusion in County Development;
  3. The 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census: An Observation Report of the National Gender and Equality Commission: Emerging Issues, Gaps, Good Practices and Recommendations;
  4. Equality and Inclusion of Refugees in Kenya: A Mission to Kakuma Operation Centre and Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Settlement Program in Turkana County; and
  5. An Introduction of Gender Based Violence in Emergencies (GBVIE).

Also in attendance was Ms. Betty Sungura-Nyabuto, NGEC CEO; Commissioner Dr. Chomba Munyi, NGEC Vice chairperson; Dr. Joyce Mutinda, NGEC Chairperson among others.

By Jacqueline Kirimi

Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Kobia Presents Statement on the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Girls in Kenya

Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia yesterday presided over the presentation of a statement on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls in Kenya and a call for action by Kenya Girl Guides Association youth leaders.

During the meeting, the Kenya Girl Guides Association presented a 7-point statement of how the girls and young women in Kenya have been affected by COVID-19 which included Gender-Based Violence; menstrual period poverty; evident pay gap for women health workers; unemployment; higher poverty level; inequality at home; and inaccessibility to quality education by girls from marginalized communities.

The report is adding voice to the many reports on the issue of COVID-19 and, therefore, underscoring the importance of this matter to Governments and Stakeholders.

Prof. Kobia commended the efforts, initiative and commitment by the young people and the Kenya Girl Guides Association and for coming up with an apt topic of discussion at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recognised that the pandemic was not just a health crisis but also a social one.

“The pandemic has unravelled not only as a health crisis but also as a social crisis where vulnerabilities facing girls are exposed. We have seen rising cases of GBV, teenage pregnancy, education inequalities among other forms of social injustices,” she said.

Recently, the Government launched a report on ‘Promises to Keep:

The Impact of COVID-19 on Adolescents in Kenya which indicated that over 300 girls throughout the pandemic have fallen pregnant and others have dropped out of school. The association put forward a call to action to:

  1. Prioritize the protection and safeguarding of all girls and young women from gender-based violence in all policies, information and guidance throughout the response.
  2. Prioritize sexual and reproductive health rights of girls.
  3. Increase women’s access to credit facilities and market opportunities.
  4. Strengthen partnership at all levels to ensue linkages between the adolescent well-being agenda and broader efforts to address young people’s livelihoods education and skills, as well as productivity.
  5. Ensure that targeted measures are taken to protect and support young women’s economic empowerment, comprising of social protection and paying attention to the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work during this period.
  6. Prioritize learning continuity in the period of school closures and ensure that adolescent girls’ needs and lived realities are considered. This includes accessible and inclusive distance learning that will reach the most marginalized and limit inequalities in the education system.

Prof. Kobia welcomed the call to action and pledged support from the Government to address the challenges raised through policy interventions. She urged other stakeholders to join hands in the effort for greater impact.

By Naomi Moraa

Passing out Parade of the Newly Recruited National Youth Service (NYS) Privates

Passing out Parade of the  Newly Recruited National Youth Service (NYS) Privates

Cabinet Secretary, Ministry for Public Service and Gender, Prof. Margaret Kobia, on 28th July, 2021, presided over the passing out parade of the induction of newly recruited National Youth Service (NYS) privates and the commencement of the paramilitary training of the new servicemen and women at the National Youth Service Paramilitary Academy in Gilgil.

During her speech, she stated that the government recognizes the ideals and energy of young people that are vital for the achievement of the nation’s development goals.

Prof. Kobia highlighted the reform journey that the institution has gone through since 2018 and expressed confidence that the reforms have strengthened NYS to deliver better on its mandates.

‘’NYS has undergone fundamental reforms including enhancement of its human resource capacity. The institution can now manage larger budgets and carry out complex and demanding projects which often require multi-agency cooperation. This has re-engineered the institution and made it fit for purpose,” she said.

728 privates who were recruited from across 47 counties underwent 6 weeks of induction training. 262 of the privates are female and 466 are male with a considerable number being persons living with disabilities. This is in keeping with the constitution’s requirement of inclusion, gender parity and regional balance.

Prof. Kobia recognised the support and commitment of all the stakeholders in their role in transforming the lives of the youths and building the institution for posterity. She said that the government will continue with its efforts to inculcate the right values in young people noting that a youthful population that adheres to higher ideals of patriotism and humanitarianism is the foundation of a stable environment for business, development, peace and prosperity.

She congratulated the new team and urged them to uphold the values of the institution.

“Congratulations for successfully securing employment in this reputable Government institution and for completing your induction course. Your new role in nation-building will demand nothing short of unparalleled discipline, a high level of professionalism, integrity, accountability, prudent use of resources and compliance with laws, regulations and standards at all times. These ethical practices will guarantee you opportunities for growth, ’’ she said.

The Cabinet Secretary commended the NYS Council for restoring the institution’s core values of integrity, patriotism and discipline and encouraged them to continue being faithful stewards.

The National Youth Service was established in 1964 to train young people in paramilitary and regimentation; national building programs; and technical and vocational training in various skills and trades. In 2019, the institution was transformed into a fully-fledged semi-autonomous state corporation after the enactment of the NYS Act, 2018 by the Kenyan parliament.

In attendance at the event was Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Rachel Shebesh, Principal Secretary for State Department for Public Service, Mrs. Mary Kimonye, NYS Director-General, Ms. Matilda P. Sakwa, Gilgil College Commandant, Ms. Ruth Mbuvi among others.

By Brian Kochwa

Launch of Thamini Loan Product for Widows

Launch of Thamini Loan Product for Widows

On 21st July, 2021, Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia, launched the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) Strategic Plan 2021-2024 and Thamini – a loan product for widows.

Thamini is loan facility that provides widows access to interest free group loans with no administration costs. The loan product is expected to improve the lives of widows and their families. It is targeted at widows in Kenya aged 18 years and above within certified widow led groups.

Prof. Kobia lauded the initiative as a premise on conviction, that if you lift women from poverty they will improve the quality of life for both men and women in the society.

“Although many gains have been made, negative culture and women’s socialization on their roles, inhibits and restricts them from realizing their full potential more so the vulnerable segments of PWDs and widows, hence the need for the new initiative that we are launching today,” she said.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the development partners for their role in making the product a reality. “I wish to thank the many organisations who have provided resources and technical support towards this launch as we could not have achieved this alone,” she said.

The features of the loan are:

  1. Must be a registered Self Help Group of 10 members and above comprising 100% women of which at least 70% should be widows, and must have been in existence for at least three months.
  2. All leadership positions must be held by widows.
  3. Must have an account in a Bank/SACCO FOSA/Post Bank/Deposit Taking Micro-finance (DTM).
  4. Groups must be trained on specialized and holistic business management skills by the WEF officers as a prerequisite for the loan application.
  5. One month grace period applies to the Thamini Loan cycles.

Also present at the launch was Principal Secretary State Department for Correctional Services, Ms. Zeinab Hussein; Principal Secretary State Department for Gender, Prof. Collette A. Suda; Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Jebii Kilimo; WEF Chairperson, Commissioner Njoki Kahiga; Kenya National Assembly Chairperson, Hon. Josphat Kabinga; and Come Together Widows and orphans Organisation founder, Ms. Dianah Kamande.

By Naomi Moraa

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