Parliament must improve vetting process

Members of the National Assembly take the oath of office.

Members of the National Assembly take the oath of office on September 8, 2022. Parliament must improve vetting process.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto will, in the coming few days, appoint Cabinet Secretaries and principal secretaries who, upon vetting, will help him deliver the promises he made to Kenyans. Being called to serve in the position of CS and PS is a huge honour.

Senior officers who serve in government are automatically the custodians of national resources. However, previously, since 2013, the spirit of Chapter Six has been lacking in key appointments.

Notably, men and women who lacked requisite academic qualifications and others of questionable moral standing were accommodated in the Cabinet. Sadly, these unqualified personalities sailed through the parliamentary vetting process.

The vetting tradition founded in Article 132 (2) (for the national level) and Article 179 (2) (b) (for the county level of the Constitution) was borrowed from the presidential system of the United States where the president’s powers to make appointments is limited.

Therefore, with the powers to vet nominees into public office bestowed upon Parliament, it is expected that the result of an appointment process should produce individuals ripe for public duty and with the right dichotomy of character.

Yet, why is it that public life for individuals legally approved by Parliament is marred with scandals and abuse of public resources? How do individuals with such questionable characters pass unnoticed by Parliament?

The Public Appointment (National Assembly) Approval Act outlines issues for consideration by Parliament in relation to any nomination. However, Parliament is either by design or accident not equipped to really scrutinise a nominee.

This is due to several reasons.

First, Parliament relies on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to provide clearance on the nominees, but can the EACC be trusted to provide an accurate report on a nominee? The ease with which the EACC issues their EACC declaration forms and reports leaves a lot to be desired.

Secondly, the verifiability test applied by Parliament during the vetting process relies entirely on government institutions such as the DCI and the KRA. This begs the question; what is the quality of the vetting exercise if Parliament relies upon the Executive to provide background checks on their own nominees?

Parliament in its reliance on the Executive to provide background checks, needs to define the verifiability test and what should meet its threshold and compel the EACC, the KRA, ministry of Education and the DCI to provide elaborate background reports on a nominee.

Lastly, MPs should be firm this time round and design systems that will enable them apply their wisdom and technical capacities to ensure only competent individuals are allowed to serve Kenyans.

Njoga Moses Harman, Nairobi


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