The opposition and the ruling party are headed for a clash over the vetting of nominees to the Cabinet, with the National Super Alliance demanding fresh interviews for ministers retained.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi on Monday said the nine nominees must be subjected to scrutiny by Parliament and questioned the basis of an assertion by his Majority counterpart Aden Duale that there was no need for that.
President Uhuru Kenyatta retained six Cabinet secretaries from his first term and named three fresh ones, who have to be approved by lawmakers before they are formally appointed.
Mr Mbadi said the six should be vetted, arguing that because President Kenyatta had taken the oath of office for a second time, he was setting up a new Cabinet.
“I am a third term MP. Every time I go for election, I am vetted and every time I win, I have to take a fresh oath of office,” the Suba South MP said.
“Is it not a serious level of ignorance when someone says incumbent Cabinet secretaries, once reappointed, cannot be vetted and cannot take a fresh oath of office?”
After meeting American ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, the National Assembly Minority leader said Mr Duale’s position was a demonstration of the poor quality of legal advice the President and his team get from Attorney-General Githu Muigai.
Mr Mbadi’s stand could form the basis of debate in the National Assembly when the report of the Committee on Appointments is tabled later this month after the vetting and public questioning of the nominees.
The opposition has, however, locked itself out of the vetting since it has not submitted its membership to the committee.
Mr Mbadi said the opposition would not be involved in vetting of ministers because “we do not recognise President Kenyatta’s legitimacy”.
The National Assembly approved a motion before the December break allowing the President’s message on his nominations to go straight to the committee
That also allowed vetting to start with an invitation to the public to submit views on those nominated.
State House was last evening yet to submit the nominations and the portfolios assigned to the new faces — Mr John Munyes, Mr Ukur Yattani and Mr Keriako Tobiko — to the National Assembly despite a promise to do so.
President Kenyatta retained Mr Henry Rotich (National Treasury), Mr James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure) Dr Fred Matiang’i, (Interior and Co-ordination of National Government and acting Education CS), Mr Charles Keter (Energy), Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Mr Najib Balala (Tourism), creating the impression that he had dismissed the other 13.
Mr Duale said the Constitution gave the President the power to reassign a Cabinet secretary and did not fix a term limit, meaning that those retained continue working without reaffirming their allegiance to the country and their jobs.
He said the law shows how a Cabinet minister can assume office or resign and gives the President the power to reassign or dismiss them.
Mr Duale added the law mandates the President to dismiss a minister if the House passes a resolution to that effect.
“From this reading, it becomes apparent that upon approval for appointment by the House, a Cabinet secretary serves at the pleasure of the President unless he or she resigns or is dismissed,” the Majority Leader said.
“He or she may also be reassigned within the Cabinet.”
The Garissa Town MP added that the approval of a Cabinet secretary was not limited to a particular portfolio but to the office.
“As such, reassignment to a different portfolio does not change the nature and functions of the office of a Cabinet secretary hence discounting any need for fresh approval.
Indeed, a close reading of Article 152 reveals that the term of office of a Cabinet secretary is not attached to either the term of a President, the term of Parliament, or a particular portfolio,” he said.
Mr Duale added that a change in the presidency does not affect the tenure of the Cabinet secretary unless he or she resigns or the incoming president dismisses them.
He referred to the American model where secretaries such as Henry Kissinger and Robert Gates served under different presidents.
Mr Kissinger was Secretary of State under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, while Mr Gates was Secretary for Defence under George Bush and Barack Obama.
In President Kenyatta’s first term, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Monica Juma’s nomination as Secretary to the Cabinet was rejected by the National Assembly.
She remained in the Interior ministry for a while but was then not vetted when she was reassigned to the Foreign Affairs ministry, her current posting.