CS vetting a disappointing, ‘rubberstamp’ process

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The Parliamentary Committee on Appointments recently concluded its vetting of nominees to Cabinet. During the process, some candidates, such as Prof Margaret Kobia, came out as vastly experienced, forward thinking and even overqualified. Others, such as Rashid Echesa, although not academically gifted, demonstrated valuable experience gained from private engagement in the relevant sector. For some, like John Munyes, the mutual understanding seemed to be, “he’ll learn on the job”.

Nine nominees were vetted – 3 women and 6 men in fulfilment of the 2 thirds gender rule, an achievement the Committee was quick to commend. Among the considerations were academic qualifications, employment records, professional affiliations, conflict of interest, knowledge of the relevant subject, overall suitability, integrity, vision and leadership as well as expectations and key priorities.

The first to be interviewed was Prof Kobia, for the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Public affairs. She promised to streamline the public sector by ensuring ethnic balance, gender mainstreaming and incorporating more youth into the public service. Staff possessing a rare skill set and serving in key areas such as medicine would, under her watch, be retained beyond their retirement age to allow for smooth transfer of skills. On whether the retirement age should be lowered from 60 years, she was non-committal, only stressing the importance of a thriving, efficient and effective public service to job creation and economic growth.

John Munyes, a career politician and a member of the National Steering Committee in the Jubilee Party, nominated for CS in Petroleum and Mining, received praise for never having been associated with corruption or gross misconduct while serving in the public sector – which he termed a key advantage for himself. Once appointed, he promised to undertake a forensic audit and mapping of all mineral resources in the country, oversee the regulation of the petroleum industry, including pushing for requisite legislation and regulations to aid this course, give priority to small scale artisanal miners and small scale mining investors, and provide licenses to potential investors in the sector. For Munyes, it was not of concern that he didn’t have prior experience in the mining sector; it was good enough that he is a visionary leader.

For Amb. Dr. Monica Kathina Juma, she came out as perhaps the best person to replace the inspiring Amb. Amina Mohammed. Queried on the diminishing role of Kenya in the region, Dr. Juma revealed that the country was merely shifting focus to Africa – a strategy that has the prospect of catapulting growth, promoting regional development and enhancing stability. For her, there is no cause for alarm. The nominee summed up her presentation by reiterating the need for the ministry to focus more on the training of its staff by developing a career development framework that is predictable, clear and fair.

Farida Chepchumba Karoney, for the Ministry of Land and Physical Planning, rounded up the ladies. Famed for her excellent performance as a journalist, she fell in the same boat of relative inexperience as Munyes. Like him, leadership qualities demonstrated elsewhere were deemed good enough to aid assimilation into her new role.

Former Meru Governor Peter Gatirau Munya was nominated to head the Ministry of East Africa Community and Northern Corridor Development. Perhaps surprisingly, the interview revealed quite an academically accomplished Munya, a man properly qualified for the role. He is an advocate of the high court and an expert in international economic law. As expected, his nomination unearthed a few skeletons of his political days, but the Committee decided he had responded to each query effectively. It chose to ignore issues of financial impropriety and ignoring Senate summons during his days as governor.

Perhaps the least inspiring of all the nominees, considering his forgettable stay at the Directorate of Public Prosecution, was Keriako Tobiko an LL.M Holder from Cambridge University. Like Munya, his nomination attracted queries none of which the committee really cared to follow up on. He promised to use his vast experience in law and relations cultivated with organisations relevant to the Ministry of Environment, such as the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), to improve the sector.

Interviews on Rashid Echesa (Sports) and Ukur Yatani (Labour, pictured left) weren’t any more illuminating. Echesa in particular wasn’t hard pressed to explain how the Ministry would increase the number of stadiums, especially after Jubilee had failed to deliver of the promise to build five stadiums in every county.

On the face of it the interviews we carried out in accordance to the law. Superficially, they were even a success. Unfortunately, they weren’t as thorough as they ought to have been – a detail lost into the political quagmire the country has been sucked into.

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