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Kenya Kwanza, Azimio camps poised for clash over vetting of Cabinet nominees

Prime Cabinet Secretary nominee Musalia Mudavadi, DP Rigathi Gachagua and President William Ruto. [PSCU]

President William Ruto’s opening of the 13th Parliament on Thursday has set the stage for the grilling of his Cabinet nominees

The showdown will see careers made and a few others shattered in the event some prospective nominees’ suitability for office is found wanting.

Once it is formed, the House Committee on Appointments chaired by House Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, which comprises MPs from both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio coalitions, including leaders of majority and minority and the chief whips, will undertake the exercise.

Already, legislators allied to Azimio have promised a gruelling vetting exercise of the CS nominees with a view to rejecting those with integrity issues. 

In a statement on Wednesday, the MPs termed the proposed Cabinet as “essentially a line-up of who is who in the dark world of theft of public resources.”

President Ruto will, however, be relying on his foot soldiers from Kenya Kwanza to ensure his nominees sail through.  

Circus 

But if past vetting exercises are anything to go by, then a circus is likely to be witnessed.

Those nominated by the President include Prof Kithure Kindiki (Interior and National Administration), Prof Njuguna Ndung’u (Treasury), Aisha Jumwa (Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action) and Aden Duale (Defence).

Others are Alice Wahome (Water, Sanitation and Irrigation), Alfred Mutua (Foreign and Diaspora Affairs), Moses Kuria (Trade, Investment and Industry), Rebecca Miano (East African Community and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Development) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Roads, Transport and Public Works).

There is also Soipan Tuya (Environment and Forestry), Mithika Linturi, (Agriculture and Livestock Development), Ezekiel Machogu (Education), Salim Mvurya (Mining, Blue Economy), Davies Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum), Simon Chelugui, (Cooperatives and SMEs), Ababu Namwamba (Youth Affairs, Sports and Arts), Zachariah Mwangi Njeru (Lands, Housing and Urban Development), Peninah Malonza (Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage) and Susan Wafula (Health).

Florence Bore (Labour and Social Protection) and Eliud Owalo (Information, Communication and Digital Economy) were also nominated.

“If this is the team that we must live with, then Kenyans must be prepared for tough economic and political times. The downward slide of the economy will continue,” said Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, who has been as the Majority Leader by Azimio, which holds it is had more MPs.

During a press briefing Saturday, Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka also tore into the proposed Ruto Cabinet, noting that some nominees have active criminal cases and that he would whip his party members not to approve them.

Personal integrity 

 “…this was not procedurally done, on the basis of competencies and personal integrity and we shall direct our MPs to withhold approval of those who do not meet the Chapter Six threshold in our Constitution,” said Kalonzo.

President William Ruto inspects a guard of honour during the opening of the 13th Parliament in Nairobi on September 29, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

When Parliament starts the vetting, Kenya Kwanza Alliance MPs have vowed to use their numbers in the House to ensure a smooth-sailing process for all nominees, including those with active court cases.

Since his swearing-in as the Head of State, Ruto has lured parliamentary minority parties - MPs from United Democratic Movement (UDM), Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) and independents to join his Kenya Alliance and is banking on their support to ensure his nominees get the parliamentary nod. 

“We are going to approve the nominees in their entirety. We have the numbers…by the time the President was making the nomination announcement I am sure he was satisfied with their integrity status,” said Sabatia MP Clement Sloya.

South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro said: “The President tried to balance every region and his appointments reflect the face of Kenya just as the Constitution envisages.”

According to the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act, the President is required to formally notify the National Assembly Clerk in writing of his nominees to pave way for the vetting, which will take 28 days from the date of notification.

Approval hearings 

The Select Committee on Appointments is then required to undertake approval hearings on the nominees and produce a report to the House recommending the approval or rejection of the nominees.

“At the conclusion of an approval hearing, the committee shall prepare its report on the suitability of the candidate to be appointed to the office to which the candidate has been nominated, and shall include in the report, such recommendations as the committee may consider necessary,” the Act further reads.

Should the committee recommend the approval of the nominees and the House plenary gives it the nod, the clerk will notify the appointing authority of the decision of the House within seven days and the President will consequently gazette their appointment.

According to the Act, if after the expiry of the period for consideration Parliament has neither approved nor rejected a nomination of a candidate, the candidate shall be deemed to have been approved.

Where the nomination of a candidate is rejected by the National Assembly, the appointing authority may submit to the relevant House the name of another candidate, and the procedure for approval shall apply accordingly.

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