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Wetang'ula's ministry hit by claims of tribalism

BUSINESS
By | November 16th 2010

By MARTIN MUTUA

Claims of nepotism, tribalism and favouritism rocked the Foreign Affairs Ministry barely a month after its Minister and Permanent Secretary both stepped aside to pave the way for investigations into graft allegations.

Moses Wetang'ula: Accussed of gross nepotism in appointments in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Adan Keynan: Accuses Government of acting too late over recall of Immigration attache

Members of Parliament were told how the diplomatic service appointments have been based on favouritism, with little regard for merit, as career diplomats were ignored in promotions and postings.

Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Wajir West MP Adan Keynan, listened to the disconcerting reports while questioning the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Mr Francis Muthaura, who conceded to the allegations of skewed appointments in the ministry.

Mr Muthaura disclosed there were certain communities, which were dominant at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

"It happens that certain communities in Foreign Affairs Ministry are overrepresented, but we have to correct the imbalance," he told the committee.

Keynan’s committee is the one that sustained pressure on Moses Wetang’ula and PS Thuita Mwangi and whose damning report forced Mr Moses Wetangula and his PS Mr Thuita Mwangi to step aside on October 27. Both were forced out of office, amid claims of corruption over the purchase of diplomatic property in Tokyo.

Muthaura appeared before Keynan’s team with Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno and Foreign Affairs Acting PS Patrick Wamoto.

He defended the appointments to the Foreign office saying they were done by the Public Service Commission.

"All appointments are done by the Public Service Commission and they are not done in a haphazard manner," he added.

The committee put the three to task, saying diplomatic postings have of late seen fresh graduates being promoted, while more experienced staff are ignored.

Otieno said the relations some Foreign staff have with top politicians, their qualifications and experience will be tabled before the committee in four days by acting Foreign Affairs Minister Professor George Saitoti, who skipped the meeting, although he was invited.

The committee brushed aside an explanation by the acting PS that the graduates were only in the missions on attachment.

Keynan said they failed to understand how attachments could take up to four years, adding that six months was more understandable.

Recalling envoys

But the committee members insisted some of the diplomats, particularly in New York and Brussels, were not qualified for their work, and wondered how they had been picked.

They also questioned the rationale of recalling envoys, only to replace them with fresh graduates with no experience in diplomatic service.

They cited the case of London, where the commercial attachÈ was recalled and replaced by an economic counsellor. The Government’s explanation was that the decision was meant to save the public money.

The MPs who included Nominated MP George Nyamweya (PNU) and Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga (ODM), among others, argued that in Germany, the Immigration attachÈ was recalled and replaced by "a political officer" who had no knowledge of immigration matters.

Keynan explained that Kenyan Ambassador to Germany, Mr Mutuma Kathurima, wrote nine letters protesting the decision to recall the Immigration attachÈ, but the Government only acted after the House Committee intervened.

Muthaura said the Government’s policy was meant to ensure efficiency in the Foreign missions, adding that staff was recalled from missions abroad because of "indiscipline, underperformance and other administrative reasons."

He, however, noted that when the same officers complained to MPs, they only cited intimidation and tribalism as the cause of their problems.

Muthaura disclosed that the Government had transferred 18 out of the 38 civil servants from the Central Human Resource Foreign Affairs docket, to balance out the tribal arithmetic.

"Certain communities were overrepresented in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs... the thrust was to correct the tribal imbalance," said Mr Muthaura.

However, the MPs insisted that some of the envoys, more so the ones in New York (UN) and Brussels (Belgium), were not qualified for their work.

Otieno told the committee that it costs the country up to Sh2 million to keep one foreign attachÈ overseas, and therefore the issue of cost was paramount.

He pointed out that they were reviewing the Foreign postings policy to ensure the Government got value for its money.

Mr Otieno said military attaches could not be paid more allowances because this would see them earn more than the ambassadors, which was not proper.

Salary Remuneration

He, however, noted that with the passage of the new Constitution, the establishment of the Salary Remuneration Commission would address the salary imbalance among civil servants.

Otieno told the committee they expected the commission to harmonise all salaries for civil servants.

Muthaura said the Government has a policy to employ local staff at its embassies abroad, as this has proved cost-effective, adding that the amount spent is a quarter of the cost of ferrying Kenyans to those areas.

But Muthaura’s answers did not convince the committee that the policy was being implemented, with Keynan informing him the situation on the ground was different.

Wamoto said with the 51 missions the country had, not all required Immigration attaches, adding they were only sent to areas where the number of people coming to Kenya was high.

"You are not doing what you’re saying. The people you are sending to these embassies are fresh graduates. We are talking about cronyism, nepotism and all the other isms. This is not a quarrel about policy, it is a problem of the execution of that policy," pointed out Nyamweya.

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