Why did the NPSC commissioners abandon their mandate?

Members of the National Police Service Commission hear an appeal from a dismissed police officer in Nakuru on October 11, 2023. [File, Standard]

Last week, the “Maraga Taskforce on Police and Prison Welfare and Reforms” released its much-anticipated report to President William Ruto.

The report identified specific issues such as political interference in the National Police Service (NPS), corruption in employment and promotions, police training curriculum, an inadequate National Police Service Commission (NPSC), the role of the Cabinet Secretary responsible for National Security and structure of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) in the police.

Among the findings is a scathing attack on the NPSC for what the taskforce termed as acquiescing to the NPS leadership’s continued usurpation of its functions and failure to develop policies and institute measures to enable it perform its constitutional and statutory obligations.

The task force finally recommends a negotiated exit of the members of NPSC or any other legally recognised modality.

Many agree that the commission had surrendered its powers to the Inspector General of NPS. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) successfully sued the commission in 2014 for illegally delegating its recruitment function.

Recruitment had been seen as one of the first stages of rot, resulting in the hiring of persons with no calling to serve Kenyans. As observers noted, the commission had endorsed the IG’s promotion decisions until recently, when the IG began promoting officers publicly.

The commission also sat pretty as the BBI process proposed its disbandment initially and, in the second iteration, recommended its domination by the Inspector General of the NPS.

Its Strategic Plan for 2019-2022 declared itself as part of the Interior Ministry. It described itself in the executive summary as having a crucial role in the Executive arm of government, reversing the separation provided by the Constitution without referring to the will of the people of Kenya.

There are accusations that NPSC has failed to take seriously its mandate to transform the service into a professional, accountable, and human rights-compliant one.

They could have ensured fair recruitment and career progression, including transfers, promotions, disciplinary processes, and welfare benefits.

Yet, these functions were handed over to the same circles that perpetuated corruption, favouritism, and nepotism that made the police a living hell for the unconnected and law-abiding.

Chapter 15 on Constitutional Commissions like the NPSC play a crucial role in Kenya’s constitutional order. They were essentially created to handle specific matters that the Executive could not be trusted with or had abused pre-2010, such as land adjudication, judicial appointment, salary determination, or public prosecution.

It was, therefore, intended that commissioners would be hired openly and competitively, adequately funded, and given tenure security to enable them to function.

Commissions are required to protect the people’s sovereignty, to ensure the respect of democratic values and principles, and to promote constitutionality by Article 249 (1) of the Constitution. According to Part 2, they are independent and cannot be directed or controlled by anyone.

So, is a negotiated exit for commissioners the right way to go? Under Article 251, removal grounds can include grave violations of the Constitution or other laws, including contraventions of Chapter Six, gross misconduct and incompetence done through a petition to parliament and the formation of a tribunal.

Maybe a tribunal is the best way to get to the bottom of the issue and have the NPSC explain every decision.

Should those who usurped the NPSC’s role be held accountable for equally violating the Constitution? Furthermore, did the Executive and Parliament undermine the NPSC through the 2014 Security Laws amendment that gutted its role in recruiting the Inspector General, which the taskforce now wants restored?