Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vetting of Cabinet nominees was a sham exercise

 

By KEWNDO OPANGA

What exactly was the reason a parliamentary committee was constituted to vet the President’s nominees to various Cabinet positions? The vetting process was supposed to assure the Kenyan people that the various dockets that form the Executive will be led by capable and competent, accomplished and trustworthy men and women of integrity and character.

The way I understand it, the 28-member Parliamentary Committee on Appointments was, therefore, expected to ask reasoned and measured questions that would enable the Kenyan people get into the minds of the nominees, and get to know them better. The whole exercise was to rise and fall on the performance of the MPs.

From the questions the MPs asked, the nominees would have immediately remembered that one does not get a second chance to make a first impression. They would have responded by displaying their confidence and knowledge and, more importantly, positions on the crucial issues affecting the lives of the Kenyan people.

My humble submission is that the MPs failed spectacularly in this duty. Here’s why: Firstly, the MPs sought to vet the nominees from a point of ignorance. True, the MPs had at their disposal memoranda and petitions forwarded to Parliament against the nominees by dissenting members of the public.

But they did not carry out any research of their own; you vet from a position of strength, which is brought about by knowledge, which is, in turn, brought about by research and inquiry. MPs cannot possibly have weeded the undesirable elements out of the Cabinet if they did not have foolproof evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the nominees.

Similarly, they cannot possibly have cleared the nominees of the accusations levelled against them if they did not benefit from investigations into the same.

Nominees escaped with raps on their wrists or had unfounded allegations against them repeated and amplified several times over.

Secondly, the whole exercise was a fraud perpetrated on the Kenyan people. The committee, we were informed, had on Monday evening rejected the nomination of Ms Phyllis Kandie to the commercially and regionally critical East African Community, Commerce and Tourism docket.

On Tuesday morning, 16 of the committee members met their Jubilee Coalition colleagues for a strategy meeting that resolved to back Ms Kandie’s nomination. In the evening Jubilee MPs, the 16 from the Committee on Appointments included, ganged up to muscle Ms Kandie’s nomination through the House.

My take is simple; the rejection of Ms Kandie was a sham that was faked by Jubilee and swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) MPs. It was faked to hoodwink the Kenyan people and make the Committee on Appointments look good. Why? Because Ms Kandie’s performance before the committee was unacceptably and unbelievably inept.

Thirdly, the committee gave the nominees a pass; they were soft on them. In 2011, Ms Cecily Mbarire found it right and proper to ask Dr Willy Mutunga if he was homosexual (yes, she said gay) during the vetting of those who sought to be Chief Justice.

Somebody else asked the same of Ms Nancy Baraza who was the red hot favourite for the Deputy Chief Justice’s position. Nobody asked the nominees to the Cabinet hard moral, personal, financial or political questions, yet on these issues some of them would not hold a candle to Dr Mutunga.

Fourthly, it made sense in terms of image for the 16 Jubilee MPs to reject Ms Kandie on Monday evening and it made political sense for them to reject their rejection of her nomination on Tuesday morning and afternoon. So, please begin to get used to the fact that the President will nominate and then the Committee on Appointments will be called in to vet. It will approve and or reject only for the party or coalition with the majority in the House to have its way and sway whichever way.

Fifthly, even if this is the case, should not the President vet his nominees before presenting them to the Committee on Appointments? If he did, then, allow me to assume that Ms Kandie did not mumble and stumble, fumble and bumble as she did before MPs. Ms Kandie might want to watch footage of Mrs Sarah Serem, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission boss, fielding questions and comments at public functions.

Lastly, may I suggest that in future Parliament considers legislation that vests vetting of Cabinet nominees and gathering information on them to respective parliamentary committees.

Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant opanga@diplomateastafrica.com