Uhuru’s powers to hire PSs or his own advisers curbed

By Seth Onyango On Tue, 13 Aug, 2019 18:51 | 3 mins read
Speaking when he chaired the Cabinet meeting on August 1, Uhuru said the government is putting in place measures that will help ease the burden of cancer on Kenyans. [PHOTO | COURTESY]
Speaking when he chaired the Cabinet meeting on August 1, Uhuru said the government is putting in place measures that will help ease the burden of cancer on Kenyans. [PHOTO | COURTESY]
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  • In a proposal tabled in Parliament, PSC will also hire advisers to the President, Deputy President and Cabinet secretaries.

The President will no longer have a direct hand in picking Principal Secretaries as the Public Service Commission (PSC) moves to ensure State officers are competitively recruited.

In a proposal tabled in Parliament, the commission, which seeks to curtail the Executive’s hand in the nomination of candidates for the ministries chief accounting officers, will also hire advisers to the President, Deputy President and Cabinet secretaries.

If approved by Parliament, the advisers to CSs have been trimmed to two, with their powers limited. This is to ensure those picked do not run amok in ministries.

“The commission shall in recommending persons to be appointed as Principal Secretaries under section 47 of the Act, use a competitive recruitment process,” read the PSC Draft Regulations, 2019 tabled in the National Assembly.

On Monday, PSC chief executive officer Simon Rotich confirmed that the Commission had forwarded the proposals to Parliament for interrogation and adoption before they are gazetted, but declined to comment further.

Streamline civil service

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale observed that the regulations aim at streamlining appointments, promotions, re-designations, transfers, secondments and deployments in the civil service.

“These are part of the reforms in the public service, and Parliament will adopt them for implementation if it finds them good. We want to make our public service a professional entity for the generations that will come after us,” he said.

The regulations have now been submitted to the Committee on Delegated Legislations chaired by Gladys Boss Shollei for scrutiny and a report is due to be tabled before the House when it resumes sittings next month.

“Within 21 days after the president has been elected or upon the request of the President for the purpose of filling a vacancy in an office of a PS, the commission shall publish a notice in the Gazette, the commission’s website and in at least one newspaper of nationwide coverage, inviting those eligible for the position to apply,” the report reads in part.

Increase transparency

National Assembly Leader of Minority John Mbadi said while there was nothing new with the PSC regulations, the process will become more transparent because the rules will be clear.

“What they are doing is restating what is already in the Constitution by expanding those provisions and making it mandatory,” he told People Daily by phone.

Although the PSC is mandated to hire civil servants, the Executive has been side-stepping the commission and handpicking the PSs and advisors— a process that has often been seen as a reward  to political loyalists at the expense of meritocracy.

For instance, in the run up to 2017 presidential polls, President Uhuru Kenyatta dissuaded losers in the Jubilee primaries against leaving the party, assuring them they will be given other State jobs.

“Those who will lose during the nominations should support the winners,” he spoke during the campaigns in Mt Elgon area.

And during his campaigns, Opposition leader Raila Odinga also promised ODM party nomination losers plum State jobs, should he become the next president.

“We will ensure those who will lose nominations will be given jobs in our government because there are many jobs in any new government,” he said.

But with the new proposals, candidates for PS jobs will be vetted in a public process with names of only those with highest scores forwarded to the President for formal appointment.

Politicians will, therefore, offer no binding guarantee.

As the accounting officers, PSs are considered the engines that run the ministries, with President Uhuru having expanded their mandate in 2015 as chief executive officers.

This was aimed at clipping the powers of CSs, who had often been accused of cutting deals with politicians, thus breeding corruption.

PSs are tasked to direct and coordinate the general functioning of the ministries and operational guidelines of government policies and ensure effective delivery of its mandate under the direction of the Cabinet secretary. 

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants secretary general Tom Odege, who is also the Nyatike MP, believes the new regulations would entrench professionalism in the public service.

“This is very encouraging since many qualified young people have been leaving the civil service because there is no room for career progression since the top positions are usually reserved for relatives, political cronies and friends of the Executive,” he said.

Ushering a new modus operandi, the advisors will no longer be allowed to chair staff meetings and will not be assigned any role that is performed by other officers in State departments.

“Advisors shall not have or hold any supervisory role over any public officers,” reads the proposed regulation in part.

According to a source at PSC, limiting the number of advisors a CS will cut wastages in their dockets where ministers have hired friends, and had them paid millions for doing nothing.

“We do not want a scenario where a minister has been hired to do a job and ends paying seven other individuals to do the same job, that is why we are proposing these regulations,” said the source.