Chebukati's wife to serve as CRA chairperson after MPs give nod

Mary Wanyonyi at the Public Service Commission offices in Nairobi on October 12, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

MPs have approved Mary Wanyonyi as the new chairperson of the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) despite the controversy that surrounded her nomination.

Ms Wanyonyi, the wife of former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati, will serve in the position for six years.

She replaces Jane Kiringai who has completed her six-year tenure.

It was however a mixed bag of fortunes for President William Ruto on Thursday, June 29, 2023, after the National Assembly Committee on Labour rejected Phylis Wagacha who the Head of State had nominated as a member of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

Dr Wagacha, who had been nominated to represent the Public Service Commission (PSC), was rejected over her age.

The committee, in its report, noted that Wagacha is aged 75 which is well above the mandatory retirement age of civil servants as set by the PSC.

"To this end, the committee notes that the nominee is not suitable to hold the position of member of SRC on account of her age. It is necessary that the representative of PSC is below the mandatory retirement age," the National Assembly Committee on Finance and National Planning said in its report tabled in parliament on Thursday.

The team noted that Ms Wanyonyi had met all the qualifications to hold the coveted position.

"Despite an onslaught from the public, she was found suitable to hold the position," said the committee's chairman Kimani Kuria, who tabled the report.

President Ruto picked Wanyonyi from a final list of three that had been forwarded to him by the PSC following the interview.

Wanyonyi's nomination sparked a heated debate with some MPs claiming that she was only picked because of her status as wife of former IEBC chair, claims that Kuria refuted.

"It was only until she was nominated for the position of chairperson for CRA that the question of who her spouse is came into discussion. Of course, it was unfair to see people trash her CV and the many years of hard work she put both in public service and the discussion became who she was married to," Kuria said.

National Assembly Committee on Finance and National Planning chairman Kuria Kimani at Parliament in Nairobi on March 6, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

He added: "Maybe this House needs to ask itself whether we accord the same treatment when we're vetting the men that come to this House or when we vet any male candidates in any particular position. Does anybody care whose husband someone is when they get appointed?

Members of the committee, who spoke in support of Ms Wanyonyi's appointment, also indicated that they focused on her qualifications as opposed to her spouse.

Wanyonyi is a certified accountant and mediator. She holds a Master's degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Commerce in accounting.

She previously served as a board member at the Kenyatta National Hospital and Maasai Mara University.

The MPs did not however debate the report with the undertaking being pushed to Tuesday next week by Speaker Moses Wetang'ula.

During Wagacha's vetting last week, the Runyenjes MP Eric Muchangi-led committee tasked the candidate to explain why she was interested in the job given her age.

She was also asked to explain how she will weed out the ghost workers in the civil service, job group grading and how she would further deal with the current salary increment demand by MCAs.

Wangacha was at pains to answer the query and told the committee that there should be no reason to deny any Kenyan a chance to serve the nation at whatever level.

"If the government improves their public sector services, such as hospitals, schools, among other public amenities, these will progressively reduce the burden on the local leaders," she said.

Wagacha added: "MCA's salary increment may also need public participation, between, SRC, the public and also the counties, then they be rated on their workload and productivity."

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