President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to unveil his cabinet secretaries nominees in the Jubilee administration’s second term.
Article 131 (1)(b) says the president “exercises the executive authority of the Republic’ although with the “assistance” of the cabinet, which consists of the deputy president, attorney general and no more than twenty-two cabinet secretaries.
The CSs are appointed and may be dismissed by the President, but their appointments have to be approved by the National Assembly as per Article 152 of the Constitution.
This means the members of the National Assembly will be approving or disapproving the nominees. However, this will have to be guided by among others:
Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya which embodies the national Values and principles of governance;
Article 232 of the Constitution on the National Values and Principles of Public Service that makes it imperative that there be representation of Kenya’s diverse communities;
Chapter Six of the Constitution that embodies the Guiding Principles of Leadership and Integrity; and
Article 27 (8) that contains the Principle that no more than two-thirds of the elective or appointive bodies shall not be of the same gender.
Prof. Yash Pal Ghai and Jill Cottrell Ghai observe that the secretaries “Will need political skills which are not guaranteed just because they are professionally qualified. They will need to explain and defend their policies before parliamentary committees, answer questions and persuade them to support government policies.”
“These tasks require skills of negotiations and persuasion, understanding the constraints under which MPs operate, and ability to make compromises,” they note.
Therefore, the question is that the nominees that will be forwarded to the National Assembly must be interrogated in their competency and not just based on academic papers or experience, but whether they have any demonstrated track record of concrete performance in challenging public or private positions.
Role of the Public
Further, the National Assembly must further interrogate the integrity of the nominees. It is not only the public that can help the National Assembly by coming forward with any material evidence that tarnishes the integrity of any nominee.
On the other hand, during their inauguration, the Uhuru and Ruto swore to protect and promote the Constitution; its values and principles and the institutions through which reforms can be implemented.
Consequently, the question of corruption must not be swept under all the nominees must be put under scrutiny to ensure that they have no past linkages or involvement in corruption or other conduct that demonstrates lack of integrity.
It should not be washed away that during his first term, a number of his cabinet secretaries were allegedly involved in mismanagement of funds, gross misconduct and graft allegations. Most of the alleged perpetrators were never fully charged. Currently, some were elected to political office.
Also, the National Assembly has to establish whether those CSs are representative of Kenya’s diverse communities.
Interestingly, unlike before, the President can now appoint secretaries only from outside parliament. “This is likely to have a significant effect on politics and political parties,” argues Ghai.
But then Jubilee won the repeat October 26 Presidential Elections and they will ensure their strongholds are fully rewarded with the plum ministries. those who lost the fight to form the Government will have to make do with token appointments.
With the currently divided nation, the president does not have a reliable majority support. Thus, there is a likelihood the president will be tempted to appoint senior members of political parties to the cabinet so that they can rally their members to support the government.
The not less than one third gender rule translates to at least there being not less than seven women cabinet secretaries gave the president, the deputy president and the Attorney General who are members of the Cabinet being already men.
Will the National Assembly live up to its Constitutional obligations to be a filter of those the president seeks to appoint to his cabinet? If those nominees are permitted a green light when they have competency and integrity challenges then, parliament will have given the President a blank cheque to under-deliver and mean there is little change from old practices and for corruption to thrive.
In conclusion, the National Assembly must put aside partisan political interests and scrupulously dissect the suitability or non-suitability of the nominated Cabinet Secretaries.