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Ruto advisers earn Sh1 billion? Welcome to citizen journalism at its best

A buzz went out Saturday, May 2, that President William Ruto’s advisers gobble a billion shillings of the annual national budget.

Talk about shock! A cool billion plus change for a bunch of hand-picked talking heads that whisper in the President’s ear.

Shocking news makes for great journalism. Shock is what made this story compelling.

Kenyans would be angry. The public would want answers. Fortunately, the loudest voice on social media among the President’s advisers, economist David Ndii, started to respond to the news.

What followed was citizen journalism on X at its best. And the Daily Nation chronicled it.

“‘We are like a small university’: David Ndii’s unusual defence of Ruto advisers’ Sh1.1bn budget”, said the Nation’s heading.

The story by Hillary Kimuyu narrated what was going on behind the scenes, on X, formerly, Twitter.

The Nation plucked questions and comments from a cross section of angry Kenyans and answers in near real time from Dr Ndii and weaved this into an enlightening story.

The news that the President’s advisers were raking a billion shillings had explained that these advisers operate under six units. And that this huge budget goes to salaries, travel, and entertainment.

The Nation wrote that one Vincent Ogero wanted to know why the advisers are paid an entertainment allowance.

Dr Ndii replied promptly that this was incorrect; that this budget was for meetings.

One Paul Kiarie asked why there were no advisers for “things that actually matter”, like technology, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Dr Ndii named six advisers for agriculture.

Six advisers for agriculture alone? Then, another netizen asked, why do Kenyans still need two Chief Administrative Secretaries for both the State Department of Agriculture, and Livestock Development, each of which already have Principal Secretaries?

Dr Ndii countered: why do CEOs of blue chip companies like Safaricom that have top dollar managers still retain expensive consultants?

But wait, what do the President’s advisers actually do? Don’t we already have government ministries to develop and implement policies?

Dr Ndii explained that the Kenyan state was a presidential system, like the United States. That presidents are elected on the platform of their campaign manifestoes, a blueprint for governing. That most of the President’s advisers wrote these manifestoes. Therefore, these men and women are the best to provide the President with the strategic leadership to implement his election pledges in the manifestos.

Another angry netizen asked how many employees staffed the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr Ndii’s office. And did it come with bodyguards, drivers, cooks, and gardeners – all to advise the President?

Dr Ndii answered: 10 Cabinet-Secretary level advisers, five of them with PhDs, 15 support staff, zero bodyguards.

Agree with him or not, Dr Ndii did a great job responding to citizen concerns in near real time on social media. The exchange was engaging, informative, educative, and refreshing.

Such robust debate on a matter of public interest is the hallmark of journalism.

For telling this story, good job, Nation!

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