Vet top spy nominee diligently

Plans are underway to fill the position of head of the national spy agency. President William Ruto has nominated Mr Noordin Haji, the current Director of Public Prosecutions, for the spymaster’s post.

He will be vetted by Parliament to succeed Major-General (Rtd) Philip Kameru, who has been Director-General of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) since 2014. Mr Haji is not a newcomer to the intelligence service, as he was a deputy director before he was chosen to head the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The vetting should be done properly to ascertain that the nominee is not just competent, but also beyond reproach. Mr Haji’s nomination has been challenged in court and also by activists.

One of the issues raised is the recent flurry of withdrawals of corruption and other serious criminal cases against high-profile people. He has defended himself, saying he is competent and that he is not to blame for the withdrawal of the cases. 

Early in his tenure, Mr Haji earned public admiration by prosecuting high-profile corruption cases and winning Transparency International (TI) Kenya’s Leadership and Integrity award, but he has suffered a setback with the withdrawal of that honour.

During his vetting on Tuesday, lawmakers must objectively and meticulously assess his suitability for the top position. This will not only accord the nominee a fair chance to make his case for the critical job but also assuage his critics and inspire public confidence that the vetting was done right and its outcome is, therefore, justified.

The vetting of public officials was introduced so that the various panels could interrogate candidates to establish their suitability and competence. This should never be politicised, as has tended to be the case in recent times, with MPs being rightly accused of casually endorsing some people based on political considerations. 

The country deserves a rigorous vetting process to inspire confidence that nothing is left to chance in assessing the suitability of the prospective holder of such a crucial position as the NIS director-general.