Commissions to cost taxpayers Sh3 billion in salaries

Kenyans are now faced with the stark reality that it may cost at least Sh3.1 billion a year to pay salaries for members of various commissions if the package demanded by the Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) is endorsed.

The demand by the Charles Nyachae team for what the government considers “exorbitant” salary arrears has turned focus on the cost of maintaining the commission and triggered murmurs that the commissions are being turned into a gravy train.

Taxpayers should be prepared to bear a huge wage burden in the effort to implement the new Constitution.

The Constitution provides for at least 15 commissions in addition to independent offices such as the attorney-general, director of public prosecutions, director of budget and auditor general.

Shortly after the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) declared President Kibaki’s nominees to the Judiciary and controller of budget, a Cabinet minister called Mr Charles Ayako Nyachae.

The CIC, which Mr Nyachae chairs, had spoilt the February party by releasing a statement declaring the President’s unilateral decision unconstitutional and threatened to move to court to block their appointment.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga had raised the alarm that the President had not consulted him as required by the Constitution.

A day earlier, the Judicial Service Commission — whose members included former chief justice Evan Gicheru and Attorney- General Amos Wako — also stunned the President and his Party of National Unity when they returned the verdict that the President subverted the law.The JSC, in which Mr Ahmednasir Abdullahi also sits, argued that it had the constitutional mandate to interview and recommend candidates for judicial positions.

On its part, the Nyachae team said that by side-stepping the PM, the President had acted in bad faith and challenged the two leaders to “provide forward looking and selfless leadership”.

Staring humiliating defeat by an imminent court ruling, a bruised President Kibaki ate humble pie and withdrew the nominations.And the PNU minister, shocked by the CIC position, felt obliged to call Mr Nyachae.

“You have embarrassed your father,” he told the CIC chairman, who is a son of former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, a friend of President Kibaki.

The unequivocal rejection of the nominees brought home the reality of the diminishing influence of the presidency and the place and phenomenal independence of creatures of the new Constitution.

Mr Nyachae and Mr Abdullahi can be said to be the “poster boys” of the independent constitutional commissions, which are raiding territory initially patronised by an all-powerful, self-serving and ruthless Executive.

The appointment of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to spearhead reforms in a much discredited Judiciary is one of the key highlights of the work of these commissions.The unapologetic Mr Abdullahi — a foremost critic of the Judiciary turned employer of judges — attracted criticism and admiration in equal measure for his abrasive interviewing of CJ candidates as well as his dramatic altercation with the House Committee which vetted him for the post.

But it is the equally straight talking Mr Nyachae who has ruffled more feathers. For the seven months he has been in office, he has stepped on the toes and pricked the egos of powerful political forces and professional colleagues.

The CIC chairman is at war and his shooting range is considerably wide. Besides President Kibaki, Mr Nyachae is on a collision course with Mr Odinga, Parliament, the JSC, attorney-general Amos Wako, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura and Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and Mr Abdullahi (over CIC’s objection to the composition of the Supreme Court as recommended by JSC).

“Since its inception, the commission has not lost an opportunity to pass sweeping judgement against other organs and for reasons known only to itself,” Mr Abdullahi writes in the latest edition of the Nairobi Law Monthly.

Due to his battles and towering watchdog role, some MPs have nicknamed Mr Nyachae the “Third Principal” and “chief government inspector”. But Mr Nyachae says his beef is with anti-reform forces who he terms the greatest threat to implementation of the new Constitution. However, he says they will not succeed.

“There are those who seem to be unaware that the country has a new constitutional order. To them I say, please wake up and smell the coffee,” he told the Sunday Nation.
After raising questions about the credibility of the vetting of police, the exercise was called off last week.Mr Nyachae has also been instrumental in pushing MPs to pay taxes.

That aside, the CIC boss has an axe to grind with politicians — including  the Prime Minister — on leadership of political parties.He says Article 77 (2) of the Constitution bars appointed State officers from holding office in a political party.

According to Mr Nyachae, State officers include the President, Deputy President, Cabinet secretaries, MPs, secretary to the cabinet among others.

Mr Odinga disagrees: “He says no politician should hold such a position. So are we to get these leaders from the Church?”
But it is probably Mr Wako who has come in for more flak from Mr Nyachae who described him as an impediment to implementation of the Constitution and asked him to pack and go.

However, Mr Abdullahi thinks the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution has perfected the art of the blame game.“Not a day passes without Kenyans being told that the implementation process has been delayed or is being derailed by another State organ,” he writes.