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Members of county public service boards under siege by MCAs

 Kakamega county public service board members when they appearted before the County Assembly on April 11, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Members of the County Public Service Board (CPSB) in different counties are under siege following a plot by the county governance to remove them from office.

The targeted members appear to be from counties managed by new governors, with governance experts arguing that the plot aims at appointing members who will owe their allegiance to the new governors.

In Nyandarua, Migori, Kisii and Kakamega counties, ward representatives have either rejected the nominees from the county chiefs or have hatched a plot to remove CPSB members from their positions over allegations of incompetence, gross misconduct and violation of the Constitution.

Council of Governors (CoG) chairperson Ann Waiguru said the move to remove the CPSB members lies with individual counties, and they have varied reasons to do so.

"It is not in the mandate of CoG to interfere with the operations of the county governments because each has its reasons and legal rights to take whatever move it may deem fit for the good of its electorate," said Waiguru.

In Migori, MCAs voted unanimously to remove six members of the board. A total of 52 MCAs who sat for a special sitting where an ad hoc committee report tabled on January 16 was presented by the committee passed the report.

The six are Jared Kopiyo, who was the board's chairperson, his vice-chairperson Jemmimah Were, Enock Odhiambo, Phoebe Aloo, Hesbon Omwa and Range Mwita. The ad hoc committee chaired by South Kamagambo ward MCA, Collins Ochieng, noted that evidence placed before it found sufficient grounds for the removal of the six from office.

"The board must go home for us to have a proper board constituted and for the county to have qualified people employed in various sectors for quality service delivery," South Sakwa MCA Ken Ouma said.

North Kanyamkago MCA, George Omamba, said the facts presented before them were accusations that were not only grave, but also a shame to anyone in leadership. The MCAs noted that the board's operations that had been carried out in the county should be declared illegal.

In Kisii County, a motion to disband the board was tabled at the Assembly three weeks after Governor Simba Arati received the county's human resource audit report. An ouster motion against the board has been tabled before the County Assembly but has since received criticism from some quarters.

The Assembly Majority Leader, Henry Moracha, confirmed that the Private Member Motion was tabled in the Assembly a week ago.

"We are yet to get the allegations, but the Labour committee will give us a report," he said.

In a press statement yesterday, Juhudi Africa Programme director of communications, Benard Nyamwaro, said the exercise was a witch-hunt coupled with a lack of constitutional and legal knowledge to create positions for other individuals.

"The Kisii County Public Service Board doesn't authenticate or validate certificates while discharging their mandate. The County Administration should know that the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) set up in 2015 helps coordinate and harmonise education, training, assessment and quality assurance of all qualifications awarded in the country," said Nyamwaro.

"This is a ploy to create positions for personal colonies and relatives and nothing much. I have evidence there is an outright vendetta to remove the chair and some commissioners," said nominated MCA and a member of the Labour committee, Irene Nyakerario.

The board includes a chairperson, at least three but not more than five members and a certified public secretary nominated and appointed by the county governor with the approval of the county assembly. Members of the board can be removed from office on constitutional grounds by a vote of not less than 75 per cent of all members of a county assembly.

In Kakamega County, two petitions were lodged, seeking the Assembly to remove six members of the board. The hearing is expected to start Monday next week. The six have been accused with claims of gross misconduct, corruption and incompetence.

They include Catherine Omweno (chairperson), Ambrose Subayi (vice-chairperson), Joel Omukoko, Dr Ralph Wangatiah, Stanley Were and Sylvia Otunga. The first petition was filed by Edwin Shivakale and received by the Assembly on February 24.

Mr Shivakale, in his petition, is accusing the board of recruiting 400 revenue staff and an additional 74 revenue clerks without the approval of the Assembly. He based his arguments on an internal audit report conducted between July 2020 and June 2021.

"That at least one case was noted where a job applicant did not disclose factual information during a job application. The service board also failed to adhere to the contractual appointment procedure and the staff replacement procedure," the petition reads in part.

The second petition is by Alex Sikanga and was received by the assembly on March 22. The petitioner wants the members of the board removed from office for dismissing 47 revenue officers on charges of gross misconduct for failure to collect county government revenue from single business permits, motorbike stickers and vehicle monthly stickers.

However, Muranga and Kiambu counties, which have new governors, are not facing similar hitches. Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi said he decided to adhere to the rule of law by not disrupting the contracts of the board constituted by his predecessor James Nyoro.

"When I decided to seek the governor's seat, I planned to transform the county by making it great again and not waging wars with the officials in the establishment. I intend to work with everyone willing to be part of change irrespective of who appointed them," he said.

Muranga Governor Irungu Kangata filled the gap of two positions that had been left vacant after the expiry of their term during former Governor Mwangi Wa Iria's administration, while those others continued holding their positions.

While governance experts read malice in the moves to oust members of the respective boards, those who have served as governors have okayed the move, saying working with inherited CPSB members presents hurdles as their allegiance rests with the former leaders.

Political analyst Gitile Naituli said county chiefs engineer the move by county Assemblies to establish their networks for personal gain. According to Naituli, moves to oust the board members are an indication the claims levelled against them are politically instigated.

"The move to dismantle career civil servants both at the national level at the Public Service Commission and at devolved units is ill-motivated. They paint them in bad faith and impose allegations in the name of firing them to replace them with their confidants," said Naituli.

However, former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi differed with Naituli, saying even as a new governor is sworn in, members are already emotionally attached to their former bosses.

"In my case, I tried to beseech the CPSB members to work with me as I formed government in 2017, but they were not facilitative. They opposed every decision I made and obstructed me in performing my duties" he said.

[Reporting by Ndungu Gachane, Eric Abuga, Anne Atieno and Nathan Ochunge]

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