The Employment and Labour Relations Court has annulled the appointment of Stelah Chepkoech Langat as the Bomet county secretary.
Justice Stephen Radido on Wednesday declared the process as null and void, saying that it was in breach of the Constitution and the County Governments Act, 2017.
The High Court Judge ordered the executive and county assembly to start the process of picking a new holder of the office.
The ruling followed a petition filed at the High Court by a Nairobi-based advocate, Leonard Sigey Bett, challenging the entire recruitment process.
Ms Langat, a former senior deputy county commissioner, was sworn into office on May 5, 2020, shortly after being approved by the county assembly.
This followed the controversial removal of the former office holder, Mrs Evalyne Rono, by Governor Hillary Barchok on April 1, 2020.
Mr Bett moved to court on April 27, 2020 to challenge the nomination process, saying it went against the rule of law, democracy, integrity, good governance, transparency, accountability and public participation in public matters.
He sought the court’s declaration that the process was glaringly illegal and unconstitutional and the nominee be declared unfit to hold office, and that a fresh recruitment process be started in a “procedural, transparent and legal manner”.
Justice Radido, sitting in Kisumu, on Wednesday evening issued orders compelling the county government and the county assembly to “initiate a fresh recruitment process for the position of county secretary in a procedural, transparent and legal manner”.
“There was no material placed before the court to demonstrate that the governor invited interested persons to apply for nomination for the position of county secretary as demanded by the Public Appointments (County Assemblies) Act 2017. The appointment was unilateral, arbitrary, and therefore invalid,” Justice Radido stated in the ruling.
He said: “There should be a fair competition and merit-based consideration in public appointments.”
Section 44 of the County Governments Act provides that the position should be filled through a competitive process of advertising and forwarding of the nominated candidate to the county assembly for vetting and approval for appointment.
Mrs Langat’s nomination was made through an advertisement that was placed in daily newspapers on April 23, 2020 scheduling her appearance before the county assembly on April 29.
Earlier, on April 21, 2020, the Public Service Commission (PSC) wrote to the Interior Cabinet Secretary informing him that Ms Langat had been seconded to the Bomet county government for a period of three years.
Interestingly, the letter from the PSC Secretary and CEO Simon Rotich stated that Ms Langat had been seconded “following her appointment as county secretary”, yet this was the same day that her name was forwarded to the assembly for vetting with the swearing-in coming a week later.
“Upon scrutiny, I realised that, in fact, the two letters had been issued on the same day (April 21), implying that the decision to source, nominate and forward the name to the county assembly was all done within a single day,” Mr Bett said in his petition.