The Constitution has vested powers on Parliament to vet and approve or reject individuals seeking top public offices. Consequently, Parliament enacted a law, Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act 2011, that entrenches the practice and, importantly, outlines the criteria for assessing and approving a candidate’s suitability for public office.
Underpinning this is the desire to empower the public, through their representatives, to make decisions on who occupies which office. And there is a background. Previously, all top government appointments were made singularly by an individual, the President, a practice that perpetuated bias, favouritism and inefficiency. The Constitution purposed to cure this malady by giving MPs authority to make decisions on senior government jobs and eliminate biases and eccentricities that obtained when the Head of State or ministers had absolute powers on the jobs.
The Constitution has provisions on the calibre of individuals required. Article 10 defines the national values and principles of governance while Chapter Six prescribes the desired attributes for holders of public offices. The vetting was intended to streamline public appointment and ensure merit, equity and diversity.
Since 2013, Parliament has executed this mandate with mixed results. Our concern is the continued bungling. Two recent cases odiously illustrate this. First, a few months ago, Parliament approved the appointment of Mwende Mwinzi, who has dual citizenship, as Kenya’s Ambassador to South Korea. Yet the Constitution decrees that appointees to public office must be solely Kenyan. Curiously, MPs ruled that she ought to first renounce her second citizenship, American, which she has refused.
Due to the row, the position is still vacant. Clearly, it was disingenuous for Parliament to approve the appointment of someone who did not qualify and then go on and make demands on her.
Secondly, this week, Parliament controversially approved the appointment of a nominee to the National Lands Commission (NLC), Ms Tiya Galgalo, formerly the Woman Rep for Isiolo, despite serious ethical questions raised about her tax records. But MPs were lobbied and marshalled to vote for amendment of the report by the Lands Committee, which had disqualified her, opening an avenue for her appointment. Here is a pure case of serving political interest rather than the common good. It is a shame that Parliament cannot stand up and do what is right.
Looked at collectively, and with the benefit of hindsight, parliamentary vetting is becoming a sham and it is time to rethink its wisdom and practicality.
Such egregious practices undermine public confidence in Parliament and other institutions of governance.