CS Owalo distances ICT Ministry from claims of interference with MCK Board members' appointments


ICT CS Eliud Owallo before Parliamentary Committee on Information and Innovation. 

Information, Communications and the Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo has reaffirmed that his Ministry followed the law in the process of constituting the Chairperson and Members of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) Board whose term in office elapsed on the 3rd of October, 2022.

CS Owalo, speaking Thursday at Parliament chambers when he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Innovation, refuted claims that his Ministry interfered with the process, noting that Its role is to offer legal guidance and technical support in the selection process.

“The Members of the Council are appointed by the Cabinet Secretary following a competitive process undertaken by a selection panel constituted in accordance with section 7 (3) of the Act.”

He further stated that “The Ministry requested nominations from the bodies provided by the Act, which were duly reviewed by the Ministry. The Cabinet Secretary is not required to inquire further into the nominees, but to offer secretarial and technical support,” said CS Owalo during the Committee meeting.

He noted that the selection panel is required to determine its own procedure where the CS shall provide it with such facilities and other support it may require to discharge its functions.   “The Cabinet Secretary has provided the selection panel with all the support it requires, including an advisory from the Office of the Attorney-General and Department of Justice detailing that the appointed candidates shall be free of commercial, government and political interests,” said CS Owalo, noting that the advisory has been shared with the selection panel for their consideration as appropriate.

“At the moment, the Cabinet Secretary has not been furnished with any selected candidates for his appointment and he is, therefore, unable to comment on the matter of the selection process,” said CS Owalo.

He further noted that subject to the findings of the Court, the Ministry will consult all stakeholders widely to ascertain whether amendments to the Media Council Act 2013 are required and if the question is in the affirmative.

The Ministry will facilitate the review process in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders and seek the assistance of Parliament.

He reiterated that the media should be able to self-regulate itself, noting that it is not the role of the Ministry to control the media.

Responding to Lamu East MP Ruweida Obo on issues of Mobile telephony connectivity in her constituency, Owalo stated that some of the Sub-locations are not considered commercially viable for mobile network operators (MNOs) to roll out cellular mobile network infrastructure and services.

He informed the Member of Parliament of the Government's plans to cover such areas through provisions provided for by the Universal Service Fund which is generated through levies charged to operators by the Communications Authority. In further clarification of the plans, the Chair of the Fund assured the Hon. Ruweida of the inclusion of her constituency in the third phase of the network connection and upgrades that are slated for completion before the end of the financial year 2023-2024.

Regarding connectivity in the Northern part of the country, CS Owalo assured the Committee that plans were underway, through the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) and the network upgrades by USF, to ensure access and coverage in the Northern region.