Kenya Kwanza MPs plot to save Peninah Malonza

Majority Whip Silvannus Osoro concurred, saying performance in the vetting process was not a parameter to determine the CS nominee's suitability.

"It is normal for any person to develop a bit of stage fright," Osoro said, before claiming Malonza was rejected because she was a woman, a suggestion that rubbed Minority Whip Junet Mohamed the wrong way.

"She was not disqualified based on her gender. Let us not bring up the gender card," Junet countered. "We were looking at the suitability and competence of an individual to hold the high office of Cabinet Secretary."

As he tabled the committee's report, Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa said all nominees had been considered on merit, amid audible cries of "no."

"This was a decision of the committee, but the committee works on behalf of the House," the Kikuyu MP said, adding that the rejection was not a "vindication of her suitability."

Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya agreed, saying the vetting panel could have been intimidating.

"Many things happen when you face a barrage of cameras and many people asking many questions," Baya said. "There are things that happen to people and they happened to Peninah Malonza."

MPs also debated the suitability of Aisha Jumwa (Public Service and Gender CS nominee) and Mithika Linturi (Agriculture CS nominee), both of whom had been rejected by the Minority report owing to the legal challenges facing them.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the two had serious queries on their integrity, pointing at the case Linturi faces of forging academic papers and Jumwa's ongoing murder case.

"The honourable Aisha Jumwa, up to this afternoon, is still facing an active case of murder," Wandayi said. "When we approve of you with all these cases, how do we move on?"

The Ugunja MP said Parliament would be employing double standards if it approved Linturi and Jumwa's appointments when former Treasury CS Henry Rotich "was made to step down" when he was charged with corruption-related offences.

Junet urged the National Assembly to stand up against the Executive and not be "rubber stamps," arguing that Linturi and Jumwa were too tainted to sit in Cabinet, "the country's highest decision-making organ."

"We have a nominee facing a capital offence of murder. How do you want this House to approve that unless we have lost our heads?" Posed Junet, adding that Parliament had to set high standards of leadership.

"We must stand up and tell the Executive they are wrong when they are wrong... If we approve these members, we shall be doing an injustice to Kenyans... Stand your ground. Don't be intimidated. Do the right thing."

He also faulted the regional representation, stating that two regions had produced 14 CS nominees.

Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui said it was necessary for the National Assembly to assert its independence.

"It is unfortunate that many times this House is used as a conveyor belt... It is like a choir singing for the Executive," the Kathiani MP said. "Kenyans were also vetting the nominees we were vetting."

Ichung'wa described the disagreement with the minority decision to recommend the rejection of Linturi and Jumwa as ideological.

"In line with our Constitution, every Kenyan has the right to carry the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a competent court of law," he said, adding that Parliament had powers to impeach anyone found guilty of criminal offences.

Baya defended Linturi and Jumwa's nomination to Cabinet, saying: "The allegations against Jumwa have been dropped... the cases against Linturi are civil matters. Many members in this chamber have civil matters."