“Being single is a status, not a competitive advantage,” replied Lucy Chelimo, the Kenyan nominee ambassador to Canada when asked by MP Chris Wamalwa how her single status would affect her work. In her case, what would status really mean!
Status could mean being politically correct! It could mean being ethnically correct! It could mean an age transition that she will surmount, like all else and be older, probably wiser and have this question not asked again if she is to appear before any vetting again.
Lucy was among 11 nominated for ambassadorial duties in Kenya’s diplomatic missions. The constitution in Article 132 lists the functions of the President. Part 2(e) lists high commissioners, ambassadors, consular and diplomatic representatives as some of those the president nominates, to be approved by the National Assembly before formal appointments.
It is a precedence practice, birthed by the constitution and which the country has started to reflect on. Prof. Sam Ongeri, who has been nominated for Kenya’s representative to UN-Habitat, was asked about his age being a hindrance to quality service delivery. He emphatically stated he is not old, at 76 to deliver on his diplomatic duties and affirmed that he has gained wisdom and skills in his long career which he would bring into this job if approved.
These two examples show that age was one of the considerations by MPs in interviewing the nominees. Other questions revolved around new ideas they will add to blossom diplomatic relationships between respective countries and Kenya.
Prior to this constitution, the head of state would choose anyone and the die was cast. It may not follow that even if nominated, and vetted in the current regime, you are automatically approved or otherwise. But it helps show a process in which the wider public can take part by contributing information either through memoranda to respective parliamentary committees or general discourse about the topic and individual.
In having the National Assembly vet certain presidential nominees, the public is having a say in who they are as a delegated responsibility by the constitution in Article 1 (2). Even so, we would like to see a more an open and inclusive nomination exercise. Majority of the nominees being vetted are political cronies of the current administration and may not have the requisite expertise necessary on the appointments. Is it enough to put forward a single name only for each of the positions? How were those nominated arrived at? A random pick by handlers of the country’s leadership?
Regardless, it is a first and should offer lessons. The suitability of the nominees is being tasted through this process and we hope the expected bill on Public Appointments will give clear standards to guide future nominations and vetting process.
The Japanese have a quality work ethic since the 1960s by Shigeo Shingo, ‘do it right the first time.’ Has this first footing been rightly done and of quality?