Arama’s bill could see chiefs, assistant chiefs transferred


Chiefs and assistant chiefs in Ndhiwa, Rangwe and Homa Bay Sub-counties during a meeting at Kabunde Social Hall on January 7,2023.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

A proposed law seeks to make chiefs and their assistants transferable within their counties.

Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama, the sponsor of the Chiefs (Amendment) Bill, 2024, says chiefs and their assistants spend their entire careers in one area, “which hinders services due to monotony and lack of motivation”.

During a session with the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Administration and Internal Security, Mr Arama suggested starting the transfers as a pilot in urban areas.

“They work in one area for long, some 30,40 or more years until they retire. It is monotonous and tedious doing the same thing in the same place for all that time,” he said.

The committee sought to know the applicability of the proposal, since according to it, for institutional memory, chiefs are recruited in their areas because they can relate with the locals. Mr Arama said as a pilot, the transfers should start in towns.

“We could have some of those posted in their local areas transferred to urban areas. I have seen it work in Nairobi County, which means it is a concept that can be implemented,” the Nakuru Town West lawmaker told the National Assembly team.

The committee members agreed that the plan could work well in urban centres.

According to sessional chairperson, Dido Rasso (Saku), the proposal should be streamlined to suit administrators in all parts of the country.

He told Mr Arama that the committee would review the proposal thoroughly and suggest changes if necessary to make it applicable nationwide.

The National Government Coordination Delivery Unit hires chiefs and assistant chiefs to represent the government at the grassroots.

During recruitment, chiefs and their assistants are required to have lived in the area for at least three years. They are responsible for implementing government programmes and helping maintain law and order.

Lately, the administrators have been instrumental in the fight against illicit liquor that is being spearheaded by the government.

In 2021, then-interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho announced changes allowing chiefs and their assistants to rise in the government administration ladder, beyond the limit of senior chief.

Welfare improvement

The changes, Dr Kibicho said, aimed to motivate administrators and improve their career prospects.

In the past, promotions were limited, often occurring only upon the death or retirement of higher-ranking officials.

Recent policy changes have enabled the promotion of deserving administrators based on merit, leading to greater career advancement opportunities.

The move, Dr Kibicho said, would motivate chiefs and their assistants to work diligently, “knowing they have a chance to go up the ladder”.

In the past, an assistant chief could only be promoted upon the death or retirement of the area chief.

Assistant county commissioners, who are above chiefs, were formerly known as District Officers. They are charged with administrative duties in sub-counties.

The assistant county commissioners act as links between the government and sub-counties.

They, among other things, perform office administration general work, assist in implementing government projects, handle disasters, coordinate and maintain peace-building programmes and ensure security of government property.

By the time of his exit from service, then-Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had finalised a plan with the Public Service Commission (PSC), to promote at least 6,000 chiefs and their assistants.

He said the promotion would improve the welfare of government administrators “who play a significant role in promoting law and order”.

During a meeting with county commissioners and regional coordinators in Mombasa in 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the PSC to begin a review and overhaul of the terms of service of government administrators, beginning with chiefs and their assistants.

A scheme of service made public in 2016 paved the way for chiefs and their assistants to be promoted to higher positions in the national government but remained unimplemented for long.

Under the scheme, the administrators can rise to other positions, starting from assistant county commissioners, deputy county commissioners, county commissioners and even become regional coordinators.

Under the previous scheme of service, chiefs and their assistants could only rise up to the level of senior chief.