By MWANIKI MUNUHE
NAIROBI, KENYA: Parliament’s rejection of nominees to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), dealing the first body blow to the nascent Jubilee administration may have been orchestrated, The Standard On Saturday can reveal.
For starters, the Jubilee government was not comfortable with the names presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta for consideration. And, owing to a number of factors, the ruling coalition — despite the ‘tyranny of numbers' — did not have a majority in the House. In what appears to have been good news to opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), the government was equally not happy to learn that the nominees could have been picked through the influence of a powerful cartel involving senior officers at Jogoo House, some members of the selection panel and powerful officers working in what was formerly called the Office of the President (The Presidency) but who have since become unpopular in the corridors of the Jubilee government.
Kangema MP Tiras Ngahu told The Standard on Saturday: "Some of these people have been messing up the President from day one after he was sworn in; they even sneaked a name into the list… we understand the intrigues in this debate because some of us were teachers at some point."
"TSC is not a body in Murang'a or Nyandarua, it is an important national body which must be led by a competitive Kenyan from any part of this country," he said.
Dr Lydia Nzomo, the Director at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, has twice topped interviews for the position of chair of the TSC, a constitutional body mandated to run the affairs of the teaching fraternity in the country, but in both instances she has been sidelined.
Those who scored poorly replaced other high-scoring nominees for the positions of commissioners.
It is understood that the Jubilee administration would have wanted control of the powerful commission, but the selection panel — formed under the former grand coalition government — and the nominees were largely seen to be non-reflective of the new thinking.
The Standard On Saturday has learnt that though the President’s hands, according to his handlers, were tied given that the law allows him to nominate from the list submitted by the selection panel, he still had the option of rejecting the list and picking fresh nominees from the shortlisted names.
According to the legal advice by Attorney-General Githu Muigai, and which The Standard On Saturday has seen, the President could have picked fresh names from the nominees prepared by the Kamunge selection team and forwarded them to Parliament for approval.
"I am of the considered opinion that as regards the existing vacancies and for which a selection process has already been initiated, it behoves the President to draw fresh names of nominees from the list that has been prepared by the selection panel," said Githu in a letter to TSC secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni.
In the letter dated May 30, the AG further notes: "The issue of constituting a new selection panel to select candidates for the existing vacancies does not arise at all. A selection has already been constituted by the President as provided by law".
However, TSC ignored the AG’s advise and went on to re-advertise for the positions but following a case filed in court on the matter by one Abdi Sitar Yusuf, the High Court stopped the process and ordered that those whose names had been shortlisted be forwarded to the President. That was never to be owing to the political shenanigans at the Office of the President.
The Standard on Saturday has established that the Head of State held a meeting with the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Ms Sabina Wanjiru Chege, at State House Nairobi on two occasions.
Reached for comment, Ms Chege could not confirm or deny whether or not the meeting took place.
"All I can say is that the committee spoke, and Parliament spoke. We cannot transfer inertia and incompetence from Jogoo House to TSC House. The commission must represent transformational leadership," she said.
Sources say the President was in a dilemma because the proposed names had divided the Jubilee side down the middle, and with the opposition CORD rejecting the names, he would have been placed in an awkward position.
Equally, the Parliamentary Committee on Education was also split on the matter, with majority of the members opposing the list of nominees, a move that sent mixed signals within the Jubilee coalition.
But in order to allow the President to pick his team that would take control of the giant teachers’ body, the committee would also recommend dissolution of the current selection panel and instead constitute a new one, which would eventually give the Jubilee coalition some level of control.
Members of the current selection panel include Dr James Kamunge (chairperson), Ms Helen Cheramboss, Mr Onesmus Kiminza, Prof Henry Ayot and Mr Francis Ng’anga’. Others are Mr Ernest Wangai, Ms Stella Munyi, Mr John Kipkorir and Mr James Chege.
The parliamentary committee chair, who initially backed the list of nominees, was forced to eat humble pie after majority of her members rejected the names.
Chege, however, said her committee rejected the names because the process of selection was fraudulent and that the process appeared to have been controlled by cartels in the Ministry of Education and other interested people previously working in the Office of the President.
"We were convinced that the process was fraudulent and the House agreed with our committee except for two or three people who found it necessary to unreasonably introduce Murang’a politics into an important national issue. How do you explain how a name that had not been forwarded to the president ends up in his list of nominees? It only means that somebody misled the president,' she said.
She appeared to be alluding to legislators Ms Alice Wahome and her Kigumo counterpart, Mr Jamleck Kamau, who had criticised the committee’s recommendations but were defeated by the House’s unanimous decision to approve the committee’s decision.
But besides the political gymnastics, the MPs were also disturbed by what appeared to be a scheme by top education officers to award themselves State jobs ostensibly because they are about to retire from the ministerial responsibilities.
In its report, the committee "observed that five out of six nominees were employees of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology indicating a mass exodus of senior officials from the ministry to TSC."
Mr Kiragu wa Magochi, who had been nominated chair, is acting education secretary in charge of co-ordinating, supervising and overseeing effective and efficient operations of the directorates in the Ministry of Education.
Others nominated were Mr Albert Fred Ekirapa, currently working as senior deputy director of education in the Ministry of Education, Ms Jacinta Kapiyo (deputy director of Education, Ministry of Education), Mr William Makubo (head of department, bursaries and grants section, Ministry of Education), Ms Mwijuma Mwinyipembe (acting director of quality assurance, Ministry of Education) and Mr James Muthuri Nkoroi (county director, TSC).