Vetting awaits nominees to new Cabinet

By Moses Njagih

Nairobi, Kenya: There will be a major shift from the norm in the manner President Uhuru Kenyatta will appoint Cabinet Secretaries and how they will work.

The Constitution has made changes in the way Cabinet Secretaries, formerly referred to as Ministers, will be appointed and how they will execute their duties.

Making a break from the past when the President had a unilateral decision to constitute his Government and make appointments, constitutional provisions have now placed tight checks on the Executive.

In the past, Presidents used appointments to the Cabinet and other agencies to reward political loyalists, cronies and even relatives in disregard to competence and other virtues.

The law has placed the minimum number at 14 and a ceiling of 22 members, restricting the appointing authority from using the privilege to dish out the portfolios.

The Constitution has also laid down a strict procedure for the appointments, importantly, dictating those to occupy the positions must not be MPs.

“A Cabinet Secretary shall not be a Member of Parliament,” says Section 152(3) of the Constitution. This is unlike the past when the Constitution stipulated that for one to be appointed minister or assistant, they had to be either elected or nominated MPs.

Unilateral decision

To block a unilateral decision and ensure merit in appointments, the Constitution makes it mandatory for Parliament to vet those nominated. Those nominated by President Uhuru will be subjected to vetting by the Committee on Appointments, which will be formed by Parliament before their names are forwarded to the full House for approval.

On Wednesday, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said it was now mandatory for Parliament to scrutinise the appointees to ensure their suitability.

“We are in a new dispensation and the names of those nominated will have to first come to the Committee on Appointment where they will be processed before they are approved or rejected by the National Assembly,” said Muturi.

The committee, given its crucial task in also vetting Principal Secretaries recommended by the Public Service Commission, is among those that will be given priority in being composed to avoid a lengthy vacuum in Ministry administration.

The Speaker promised the crucial committee would be in place in good time to handle its constitutional duties of vetting all appointments to be made by Uhuru.

Since unlike before the Secretaries will not be sitting in Parliament, the Government’s agenda will be pushed by the Leaders of Majority in the National Assembly and the Senate.

Lobbying for the two critical positions are ongoing within the Jubilee Coalition with TNA’s Tharaka Nithi Senator Prof Kithure Kindiki and Garissa Township MP Adan Dualle of URP viewed as likely candidates for the Senate and National Assembly post, respectively.