The Ministry of Water has a longstanding history marked by a series of controversies that have persisted through different administrations, including the current tenure under President Ruto.

The ongoing developments within the ministry are a continuation of a pattern that has characterised its operations for several years.

It is no secret that there have been ongoing tensions between Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome and Water Principal Secretary Kipronoh Ronoh.

Recent power struggles within the ministry, which ultimately led to the resignation of Athi Water CEO Michael Thuita amid corruption allegations, clearly exemplify this rift.

The rift between the CS and the PS reached a point where the head of Public Service, Felix Koskei, had to intervene in an attempt to restore harmony and efficiency within the ministry.

Related story: Koskei Shakes Maji House with Suspension of Athi Water Boss

This scenario of discord is not unique, as the ministry has witnessed similar dynamics in the past. For instance, when Sicily Kariuki assumed the position of CS for Water after being transferred from the Public Service docket, she encountered similar challenges in her working relationship with PS Joseph Irungu.

They seldom attended the same events during their tenure and chose to conduct their official duties separately until they eventually resigned to pursue political ambitions.

The root cause of these conflicts within the Department of Water lies in the high-level interests associated with the department. The ministry is responsible for overseeing multi-billion tenders related to dam construction, water pans, and the development of irrigation schemes.

This is charachterised by high-level kickbacks as tendering firms offer some monetary rewards to win the tender.

Water and Sanitation PS Dr Ronoh during a previous visit to Kimwarer Dam. Image: courtesy.
Water and Sanitation PS Dr Ronoh during a previous visit to Kimwarer Dam. Image: courtesy.

Furthermore, recent reshuffles within the ministry, such as the relocation of the Irrigation Principal Secretary to the State Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry, is another pointer to the intricacies at Maji House.

Mr Mugambi, who was tapped from the National Irrigation Authority where he was the chief executive officer, has a wealth of experience in irrigation having worked with the water agency for over 20 years.

During the first term of the Jubilee government, the Department of Water underwent shifts from the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Agriculture and back to the Ministry of Water.

In response to recent allegations, Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome has denied obstructing investigations into alleged fraud at Athi Water.

However, there were prior instances where the CS resisted calls from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Principal Secretary Ronoh to dismiss Eng Thuita, the CEO of Athi Water, who eventually resigned on Saturday.

The accusations of corruption within the organization placed CS Wahome in a challenging position, as mounting pressure called for decisive action.

Mr Koskei, in particular, emphasised that the prolonged delay in taking action, both by the board of directors and the ministry, seriously undermined the government’s unwavering commitment to combat corruption.