UDA allows parastatal heads to contest polls

UDA National Women Congress at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on October 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance has opened a new era in Kenya’s politics by giving chief executive officers of state corporations and board members the nod to contest elective party positions.

This move by UDA contradicts an advisory issued by Attorney General Justin Muturi and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who had categorically stated that parastatal heads should be considered state officers and, as such, prohibited from engaging in political party activities.

Yesterday, UDA Secretary General Cleopas Malala said the party has now allowed board chairs and chief executive officers to seek leadership positions in the forthcoming polls slated for December 9.

Addressing the media at the Party headquarters yesterday, Mr Malala announced that directors in state corporations can contest in the upcoming grassroots elections.

This comes after the party’s internal memo dated November 1, 2023, affirmed that independent directors of state corporations are indeed eligible to vie.

In a letter from Malala to AG Muturi dated September 19, he pointed out a discrepancy between the Attorney General’s advisory opinion and a High Court judgment in the case of Katiba Institute & another versus the Attorney General & another.

Citing the High Court’s judgment, the letter pointed out that state corporations generate their revenue for expenditure and their funding is not necessarily wholly provided for by Parliament. This financial autonomy suggests that their chairpersons and board members may not necessarily be considered public officers.

“We find and hold that positions of chairpersons and members of boards of state corporations and parastatals are not officers in the public service,” reads an excerpt of the judgement quoted in the letter.

Malala further argues that the AG’s position categorising chairpersons and board members as public officers could have profound implications for their recruitment processes and bind them to strict provisions.

“This would mean State Corporations would have to be publicly advertised, followed by a series of interviews and assessments against the specific provisions of the respective statutes creating the State Corporations which mandates the President to appoint some chairmen and/or board members to state sorporations,” reads the letter.

As it stands, UDA has asked the AG to re-evaluate his initial position and have it match with that of the court.

“Considering these legal complexities, and by the way of this letter, the State Law Office is requested to vary its expert opinion on the accurate position in the legal and governance framework regarding the issues raised,” reads the letter by Malala.

Consequently, the party has now pushed the registration of applications from its initial deadline of November 2 to November 17 “to allow more members to enlist themselves for the polls”.

“Our systems have clogged due to the many members seeking to contest and we felt that if we go by today’s deadline we will jeopardize them. We have moved that not to November 17,” said Malala yesterday.

Malala further stressed that the party polls would be held on December 9 as earlier planned contrary to the wishes of some members who have been pushing for the postponement of the exercise to a later date next year.

Yesterday’s announcement by Malala followed the postponement of a national steering management committee that was supposed to deliberate about the elections.