Ongoing ethnicisation of public service must stop

KRA Commissioner General Humprey Wattanga when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Trade, Industrialisation and Tourism at the Parliament buildings, Nairobi.  [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

The recent High Court ruling nullifying the skewed recruitment of revenue clerks by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) confirms the fears of systematic alienation of some communities from State appointments by the Kenya Kwanza regime.

The bold judgment is not only a serious indictment of the exclusionist policies being implemented by the regime, but stark proof of ethnic profiling on appointments in the public service.

The ruling in particular calls into question the integrity of senior officials at the authority; and in keeping with the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution, 2010, the matter should be taken up by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as per its mandate, in pursuit of any criminal culpability.

The 2010 Constitution introduced ethnic representation requirements ostensibly to check the trend where tribesmen of those in power are favoured in public service.

Thus the logical thing the KRA officials involved should do is tender their resignation in view of the violation of various provisions in the Constitution cited in the judgment which in essence renders their continued stay in office constitutionally untenable.

The court declaring the appointment of the 1,406 revenue assistants as purely tribal and hence unconstitutional for being skewed in favour of two communities - Kalenjin and Kikuyu - in one government department, is a serious affront to the Constitution and undermines national values as enshrined in Article 10. It calls for a thorough audit of the entire public service staffing fraught with ethnocentric practices.

Article 73 on Responsibilities of Leadership, sub-Article 2 (b) outlines the guiding principles of leadership and integrity as including “objectivity and impartiality in decision making, and in ensuring that decisions are not influenced by nepotism, favouritism, any other improper motives or corrupt practices.”

Similarly, Article 232 outlines the values and principles to be observed by all public officers who, among others, are required to “observe high standards of professional ethics; and to be accountable for their administrative actions.”

Paragraph 1(i) in particular, demands the officers to ensure representation of Kenya’s diverse communities in public appointments; and affording adequate and equal opportunities in appointment, training and advancement at all levels of the public service - for both gender (men and women), including persons with disabilities.

These values and principles in public service, according to the Constitution, apply to public service in all State organs in both levels of government; and all State corporations.

When, therefore, KRA in a blatant display of impunity decides that out of the 1,406 clerks it recruits, 785 comprising 55.8 per cent of the total recruitment are Kikuyu and Kalenjin, is a gross violation of the spirit of the Constitution on inclusivity.

It breaches the constitutional principles of equity, social justice, good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability as much as lacking in ethnic diversity and regional balance. Article 27 of the Constitution guarantees Kenyans equality and not to be discriminated against based on their ethnic background.   

The KRA ruling affirms an earlier damning report released last year detailing how the two communities dominate top cadre jobs in State agencies. The report tabled in Parliament before the National Assembly Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Cohesion by various heads of the state agencies, indicated how the two communities form the bulk of employees in all the agencies the committee had examined.

And a separate report by the Public Service Commission showed that Kikuyus and Kalenjins dominated top jobs in government, foreign missions/embassies, and chief executive positions in parastatals.

In the House committee case, the team under the chairmanship of Mandera West MP Adan Haji met heads of the state agencies to evaluate ethnic composition of their employees to determine whether they comply with Section 7 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act.

The section states: “No public establishment shall have more than one-third of its staff from the same ethnic community.”

It further states in Section 7(1) and (2) that all offices shall seek to represent the diversity of the people of Kenya in the employment of staff and no public institution shall have more than one-third of its staff from the same community.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon Kenyans to ensure the law regarding diversity and inclusion is observed by this regime and thus strongly oppose the ongoing ethnicisation of the public service. Ethnic composition of appointments by the regime must be subjected to continuous scrutiny to ensure offices funded by the taxpayer have the face of Kenya.