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Ombudsman defends devolution ministry against unfair promotions allegations

NATIONAL
By Patrick Vidija | October 19th 2021

Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa hands over the Devolution Ministry to  Public Service CS Margaret Kobia. [Courtesy]

The Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) has cleared the Devolution ministry of any wrongdoing following allegations of maladministration.

The commission in a statement, on its website, says it investigated the matter following an anonymous complaint received in 2020.

The Florence Kajuj- led commission said the complaint had alleged that the ministry had conducted irregular hiring of casuals, irregular engagement of experts, lack of internal organisational structure and irregular appointment of advisors to the Cabinet Secretary.

The Commission received a second anonymous complaint reiterating some of the complaints as well as improper promotions and irregular secondment of staff from counties to the State Department of Devolution.

The anonymous complainants alleged that staff had been irregularly interdicted following allegations of fraudulently obtaining promotions.

According to the complaint, the case was still under investigation by the Public Service Commission(PSC) but it was alleged that the Director, Human Resource Management and Administration (DHRMA) at the State Department prematurely and without authority interdicted the officers instead of awaiting the outcome of the investigations by the PSC.

The complaint further alleged that the ministry had been irregularly hiring experts and that the manner and purpose for which the experts had been hired was not clear since there are enough staff within the department who can perform the roles assigned to them.

The is the complaint alleged amounted to tribalism in the appointment as those hired were mostly from two communities.

The third allegation was that in the financial year 2019/2020 the ministry had only twenty-three authorised positions for casuals but instead engaged fifty-eight procedurally.

The final allegation was that staff had been irregularly seconded from the counties to the state department.

But Ombudsman said in its investigations revealed that the disciplinary cases at the ministry arising from alleged fraudulent promotion of staff were procedural and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act, the Human Resource Policies and Procedure Manual for the Public Service, and the Discipline Manual for the Public Service.

“The principles of fair administrative action were also adhered to as all the accused were informed of the offences and given an opportunity to be heard,” read part of the statement.

The commission said it established that the ministry engaged experts under the Kenya Devolution Programme financed by the World Bank and implemented by the department.

“The experts were found to be part of the secretariat which is a requirement of the programme and that they were competitively recruited to work on a full-time contractual basis,” the commission said.

According to the commission, the manner of the recruitment and purpose was found to be clear with a tribal balance in the composition of experts recruited.

“It was found that only one staff member is currently seconded to the State Department from Narok County and the due procedure was followed in the secondment as per the provision of the Public Service Act and Public Service Regulations,” read part of the statement.

The investigations revealed that the employment of casuals for the financial year 2019/2020 was determined by the availability of funds and needs of the user departments.

Further, it established that due procedure was followed where the head of user departments formally requested the DHRMA to employ casuals and the same were consolidated and forwarded to the Principal Secretary for approval.

“Evidence showed that funds were available for the recruitment of sixty casual employees as there was a need for their recruitment,” the commission said.

The Ombudsman said the allegation that the ministry lacks an organisational structure was unsubstantiated as a certified copy of the structure was provided by the DHRMA.

Based on the findings the commission said the public service commission should share its final determination on the disciplinary cases arising from suspected fraudulent promotions.

An authorised officer in the state department should further communicate the final determination of the disciplinary cases to the affected staff and they are advised to appeal to the PSC if dissatisfied with the determination of the disciplinary process.

“The PSC must look into allegations that the number of advisors to the devolution CS exceeds the required threshold and that the advisors perform roles similar to those of other staff in the ministry,” the commission said.

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