Mercy Wanjau: Cabinet yet to ratify Bill on CASs’ posts

Secretary to the Cabinet Mercy Wanjau.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The Cabinet has not approved a State-sponsored Bill which seeks to enshrine in law the position of Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs).

These are the remarks of Secretary to the Cabinet Mercy Wanjau who appeared before the National Assembly Joint Committee on Administration and National Security and Justice and Legal Affairs to give views on the National Government Administration (Amendment) Bill.

The joint parliamentary committee was holding a public participation session at County Hall in Nairobi yesterday.

The Bill seeks to make various amendments to four Acts, among them, to establish and better define the role of the CASs.

 "This issue was not presented to the Cabinet. I believe this is a proposal that will eventually be subject to wide consultations before it is tabled before Cabinet," Ms Wanjau told the joint committee scrutinising the Bill.

"There is no Cabinet memorandum or paper on this Bill."

Government Bills are usually approved by the Cabinet before being tabled in Parliament for enactment.

The committee, co-chaired by Gabriel Tongoyo (Administration and National Security) and Goerge Murugara (Justice and Legal Affairs), had sought to know whether the Bill had been approved by the Cabinet.

The Bill, sponsored by the National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung’wah, looks to reinstate the position of CAS, which was declared unconstitutional by the High Court in July last year.

Section 12 (A) of the Bill sets out the procedure for the appointment of the CAS. It states that a CAS will be appointed following the recommendation of candidates by the Public Service Commission and will be approved by the National Assembly.

The Bill stipulates that to be nominated as a CAS, one must hold a Bachelor’s degree, have experience in public service and meet the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

“Are we not reintroducing the position of CAS, which was thrown out of the window by the courts, through the back door?” asked Mandera East Member of Parliament Abdirahaman Mohamed.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Katiba Institute had filed a petition challenging the appointment of the CASs. The High Court ruled that the appointment of 51 CASs was unconstitutional.

The position of CAS was first created by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.

The Bill also seeks to amend the Assumption of Office of the President Act by increasing the number of members of the Presidential Inauguration Committee from two to six; the Office of Act to remove the Attorney-General as the custodian of the public seal and instead move the role to the Head of the Public Service, the National Security Council Act, 2012 to provide for the appointment of the National Security Advisor as the Secretary of the National Security Council Committee and the National Coordination Act, 2013 to provide the functions of the Head of the Public Service.

Mr Murugara said government officials were speaking at cross purposes on the Bill and called for a unified position.

"We had very strong opposition from sectors of the government. Has this Bill gone through the Cabinet and is there a Cabinet memo?" Mr Murugara asked.

Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo told the committee that the ministry supports the bill because it aims to strengthen security laws.

He said the ministry supported the proposal to make the National Security Advisor the secretary of the National Security Council.

"We want this Bill to be fast-tracked to address gaps in the law. The ministry fully supports the proposed amendments," said Mr Omollo.

Ms Wanjau said the Bill should be amended to have the Secretary to Cabinet as the Secretary to the National Security Council.

She said Article 240 of the Constitution establishes the National Security Council which is chaired by the President.

Ms Wanjau said Article 154 of the Constitution establishes the office of the Secretary to the Cabinet who, among other things, communicates the decisions of the Cabinet to the appropriate persons or authorities.

"The security advisor is a personal staff of the President. Why should he or she sit on the Council? Article 154 provides for the Secretary to Cabinet to be the substantive head of the National Security Council," Ms Wanjau said.