AG Muturi distances himself from Bill seeking to transfer custodian of Public Seal

Attorney General Justin Muturi when he appeared before the Public Investments Committee on Governance and Education at the Parliament chambers, September 20th,2023. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Attorney General Justin Muturi yesterday said an omnibus Bill calling for the transfer of the custodian of the Public Seal from his office to the Head of Public Service and creation of CAS posts, did not originate from Cabinet. 

The National Government Administration Laws (Amendment Bill), 2023 which is currently being considered by the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) has elicited concerns among MPs who are seeking to know its origin.

A section of the committee members expressed concern that the Public Seal would be subject to misuse and abuse were it to be transferred to the Office of the Head of Public Service headed by Felix Koskei, an ally of President William Ruto.

Muturi distanced himself and the Cabinet from the Bill, urging the MP George Murugara-led committee to establish the origin of the proposed law.

He explained that whenever the government wants to bring a Bill, its starts with a policy that is submitted to Parliament which passes and ratifies it, and later passes it on to the Executive which extracts the issues from the policy they feel require legislation.

The government then involves Office of the Attorney General in drafting a Bill which later ends up in Cabinet where it's appraised and approved for publication.

Once this is done, Muturi explained that the Office of the AG then publicises the Bill which takes the names of the Leader of the Majority party or the committee because the Executive does not sit in the House.

“…. But on this Bill, I have not seen this process being followed…the Bill was at some point brought to the AG…I know many people are asking us where this Bill came from but let me leave this matter to this committee,” he said.

“At least now there is an existing office of the Secretary to the Cabinet who communicates all the decision of the Cabinet. If she appeared here and said that she never saw it then she was right,” he added in reference to submissions made by Secretary to the Cabinet Mercy Wanjau on Monday.

The Attorney General was responding to a question by Gatanga MP Edward Muriu who had sought to know the intrigues behind the proposal to transfer custodian of the Public Seal and whether the move would be in line with the Constitution.

National Assembly Majority Chief Whip Sylvanus Osoro had also asked the AG whether he was aware about the proposed law

“Is everything well with you?” Posed Osoro, a question that seemingly sought to compel Muturi to explain whether there were external forces behind the controversial proposal.

Muturi however answered in the affirmative, noting that all was well. 

This came a day after National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi poked holes into the Bill. 

In a memorandum to JLAC, Wandayi criticised the proposal to transfer the custodian of the Public Seal, noting that no sufficient justification had been provided for the move.

“No justification has provided for the deletion of this section with the consequent effect of transferring the custody of the Public Seal from the office of the Attorney General to the proposed office of the Head of Public Service,” stated Wandayi.

He also noted that at the moment, the position of the Head of Public Service is not provided for by any Law and the effect of deleting section 28 of the Attorney General Act,2012, may lead to a lacuna whereby the custodian of the Public Seal will remain unknown in the event that the proposed amendments to create office of Head of Public Service does not succeed.

The omnibus Bill has also proposed for the establishment of the office of Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs) on numbers to be determined by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Wandayi however submitted that whereas the spirit of the Constitution seemed to prescribe a lean government the proposal seemed to be leaving open the number of CAS’s to be determined by the PSC.

“This provision is likely to be abused by appointing many people into these offices who will not only further bloat the public wage bill, but also seek to serve personal interests,” said the Minority Leader.

He further termed the proposed functions of the CASs as overlapping with other existing offices such as Principal Secretaries while noting that the proposed amendments are not clear on the hierarchy among CSs, the PSs and CASs.

“The court declared such creation as unconstitutional together with the attendant processes that led to the purported recruitment, shortlisting and appointment of the said CASs…Any proposed creation of such office through statute at this point is in bad faith and total defiance of the courts,”  Wandayi further submitted. 

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