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MPs make case to introduce vetting law

By David Kigochi | Jun 22nd 2015 | 4 min read

It is no longer in doubt that the 11th Parliament is not serving the national interest. It is also true that least in guiding MPs' day-to-day operations is posterity. The National Assembly's rejection of Dr Monica Juma's nomination to the powerful position of Secretary to the Cabinet, and the reasons advanced have left many Kenyans confounded. The backlash from the public and across the board speaks loudly.

To many Kenyans, it is an affirmation of the fact that the people's representatives have gone rogue. Coming hot on the heels of callous decisions to cut the budgets of institutions that dared to stand up to them, Kenyans are witnessing a Parliament given to throwing childish tantrums at anyone who dares stand in the way of their self-gratification.

It is apparent that Dr Juma was denied the opportunity to serve Kenyans in that office, not because of her capacity to deliver or lack thereof, but because while in her present position, she dared stand up to the lofty legislators. Even more painful is the fact that no reasonable and well-meaning person would fail to agree that she was right to try to rein in some of the MPs' excesses.

On the affirmative action front, even as women MPs are pushing for the gender rule in Parliament, sadly they were on the front line rejecting one of their own, Dr Juma, only citing a letter. Who can then push the affirmative action effectively if the women MPs believe merit can be subordinate to myopic egoistic interests?

Our position as Farmers Party is that there is an urgent need to rein in on MPs by putting in place a legislation to govern the vetting process. This is because the consistent behaviour by MPs leaves Kenyans in a precarious position. The Constitution bestows a lot of power on Parliament, with the understanding that it be held in trust for the people and used to serve, defend, and uphold the common good of all Kenyans.

But now with a Parliament gone rogue, there is urgent need for a Vetting Law to provide for establishment of procedures that are to apply in respect of vetting individuals nominated to public office. Alternatively, we can transfer the function of vetting of public appointees from the National Assembly to the Senate.

If this is not acceptable, we too can put in place a legislation to establish a National Vetting Bureau with representatives from independent commissions such as EACC, office of the Ombudsman, Senate, Parliament, Religious institutions and political parties. This can be a body devoid of selfish and partisan interests.

Dr Juma's case aside, since President Uhuru Kenyatta's government was sworn in, the vetting exercises have been wanting. Kenyans must, therefore, as a matter of urgency, find a way to emancipate themselves from this rogue Parliament. It is worth noting that the late 1990s saw a lot of agitation led by courageous individuals, the Church, Civil society, and the media to win back freedom and rights that the State, especially the Executive, had amassed for itself.

Although Parliament made it difficult to legally recall MPs that people are unhappy with, it is possible to get back what they have grabbed from the people. Kenyans have done it before and they can do it again.

As Farmers Party, we indeed support the Senate's decision to put in place a committee that among other things, will propose legislation to empower the upper house and transfer the vetting function from the National Assembly to the Senate.

Interestingly, for the first time since the Jubilee administration came to power, the MPs from the ruling coalition and those from the Opposition, CORD, joined hands. The Jubilee legislators did not use their famous tyranny of numbers to push through a nominee targeted by the Opposition. And CORD did not follow the script of openly denouncing this nominee.

So, what crime did Dr Juma commit that was so serious that it made even Jubilee MPs to rebel against the President? It cannot be the reason they cited – that she was arrogant and insensitive.

Many Kenyans will concur with Farmers Party that Dr Juma set a good example to steer the civil service. She comes out as a no-nonsense person who will not be intimidated and blackmailed to breach the Constitution and bend rules to carry favour.

The law is clear on grounds on which a nominee can be rejected. The MPs' actions confirm the widely held perception that they would like to work with officers who allows them to engage in underhand dealings.

Nevertheless, the MPs have made a case for vetting law. Many public officers vetted since March 2013 have had questionable pasts and the true considerations of legislators in approving or rejecting a candidate remain very subjective.

A vetting law would stipulate: How the process should be undertaken; entrench the requirements for each candidate; set a threshold to pass; and include any recourse mechanisms that the appointing authority or nominee can take if they feel dissatisfied with the process.

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