On the Appointment of Cabinet Secretaries

Posted by on 12th April 2013

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Under the constitution the Cabinet consists of the President, the Deputy President, the Attorney General and 14-22 Cabinet Secretaries. Since the Presidential inauguration this week, the first three of these positions has been filled so all that leaves the filling of the 14-22 Cabinet Secretary post for a full Cabinet to be formed.

Since his inauguration, two days ago, the President has dismissed the old cabinet – Permanent secretaries will be taking over the dockets until the new Cabinet is appointed – and the parliamentary committee that is going to vet the nominees for cabinet has been set up. So it’s all systems go out with old and in with the new…maybe

The composition of the Cabinet, at least with regards to Cabinet Secretaries (formerly ministers) is going to be different from what we are used to: for one thing there are less Cabinet Secretary positions, 14-22. Previous administrations saw a burgeoning of the Ministerial posts, and the coalition government had 40+ ministries, way to many. Though the current government has chosen to go for the maximum 22 positions, the silver lining is that this is where it is capped.

Another difference between the Cabinet in this administration and those in previous administration Cabinet Secretaries are no longer unilateral Presidential appointments. Unlike in previous administrations where the president appointed ministers (now Cabinet Secretaries) from the existing Members of Parliament through a process that was quite opaque. In the new dispensation the President can only appoint to the cabinet persons that have been vetted and approved by the National Assembly.

Basically the president nominates 22 people, these 22 people go through vetting and approval by the National Assembly and if approved by the National Assembly and only then can they are appointed. The hope of course is that this the vetting and approval of Cabinet appointees by the National Assembly will lead to a more participatory, transparent and competitive appointment process as far as Cabinet Secretaries is concerned.

Yet another big difference between this and previous Cabinets, is that Cabinet secretaries will no longer be Members of Parliament. They will be persons from outside the sitting government. One wonders if this will make the Cabinet Secretaries in the new administration more accountable.

It should be noted, however, that according to the constitution Cabinet Secretaries are, “accountable individually, and collectively, to the President for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions.”  Consequently a lot of whether the new Cabinet is an accountable or not lies will be a function of the President and his office.

There has been a lot of speculation about who will be in the new cabinet, the horse-trading and lobbying that has gone on behind the scenes, as well as the need to reward party patrons for their contribution to the ruling party’s election win. As the new Cabinet is established it will be interesting to see how many new faces there will be or will the new Cabinet be comprised mostly of the old guard.

Your thoughts?