President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet reshuffle this week was met with split reactions from Kenyans. One side questioning the Constitutionality of the appointments while the other praising the move as symbolic of renewed zeal in the war against graft. Both arguments raise an array of issues that Parliament is expected to navigate when reviewing the recent Cabinet Secretaries appointments.
To begin with, President Kenyatta seemed to have created a problem in an attempt to solve one. The appointments risk being rejected by Parliament since they do not meet the two third gender rule enshrined in Article 27 (8) of the Constitution. The cabinet as it is, is less two women. In a country where women are under-represented in positions of leadership the President could be sending wrong signals. This violation comes before Parliament legislates laws to implement “the two third principle” in elective positions.
The other Constitutional issues that the appointments raise, is the inclusion of politicians in the Cabinet. The spirit of the 2010 Constitution in Article 152 (3) imagines a Cabinet of impartial professionals who lack personal political interests. The Constitution in a way “prohibited” the presence of politicians in the cabinet to cushion public appointments from becoming a tool of patronage and clientilism. A critical look of Kenyatta’s cabinet shows more of political calculations rather than readiness in war on graft.
Additionally, Kenyans through Parliament would want to know if the new appointees are capable of carrying out the duties entrusted to them. And more importantly, if they are clean from corruption. In this “re-energized” war on graft, there isn’t a room of taking chances, Kenyans want action now! Parliamentarians must be diligent in the vetting process and toss aside anyone’s whose integrity is in doubt.
On the other hand, the proposed increase of the number of state departments from 26 to 41 and the collapsing of procurement departments in ministries and state departments under them may improve government efficiency and check corruption. It is now clear that the Principal Secretaries will be in charge of state departments and they shall be the people to take responsibility in case of misappropriation of public funds.
Another proposal tabled, is that of shifting the budget office from the Treasury to the Presidency. On the face of it, the proposal is good, after all the buck stops with the President. But, it must comply with the laws of the land, specifically, the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. The president might have borrowed this from the US where the White House has the office of Management and budget, but in Kenya’s context this proposal must be reflected upon, deeply.
Let it not be forgotten, Kenyans, some of whom doubt the President’s commitment to the Constitution shall be waiting to see whether Parliament undertakes its job thoroughly. They can only blame themselves in future if they do a poor job and allow compromise in the integrity of ministerial offices.