Mucheru in the eye of a storm over naming of new ICT Authority boss

Joe Mucheru

Outgoing Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Outgoing Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru is at the centre of a power struggle for the position of chief executive officer (CEO) of the ICT Authority, a state corporation.

Trouble at the corporation began last month after Mr Mucheru appointed Mr Stanley Kamanguya as CEO towards the end of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure on August 8, just a day to the general election.

According to documents filed at the Labour Relations Court, Nairobi, Mr Kamanguya was ranked second after the interviews conducted in May, having scored 73.4 points against Dr Paul Kiprono Ronoh who was ranked first with 82.7 points. Mr Fredrick Okoth Bitta was third with 71.4 points.

The appointment of Mr Kamanguya was communicated by the corporation’s board of directors to the staff on September 15. At the time of the communication, the court had issued orders on August 23 against the appointment of a substantive CEO.

The orders, directed to Mr Mucheru, stemmed from a suit filed by rights’ lobby group Uzalendo Institute of Leadership and Democracy, which challenged Mr Mucheru’s power to fill such a vacant plum positions of a government agency.

Mr Kamanguya was appointed to replace Dr Ronoh, who was the acting CEO since September 2021 following the retirement of Catherine Getao.

Continue acting

In a Gazette notice dated August 8, Mr Mucheru indicated that Mr Kamanguya would serve as CEO for three years. However, the court order issued by Judge James Rika means Dr Ronoh should continue acting until the dispute is resolved.

In the legal battle, Mr Mucheru is being accused of mischief in making a major public appointment during the transition period.

Head of Public Service Kinyua had also issued a directive to all Cabinet and principal secretaries freezing appointments by CSs to boards of state corporations or agencies, redeployments or to any ranks within ministries and state departments.

The lobby says Mr Kamanguiya’s hiring is illegal and unconstitutional, having been done during a transition period.

“If the President does not have the power to make appointments of public officers during temporary incumbency, then Mr Mucheru, being a Cabinet Secretary, does not have the power to make appointments of public officers as well during such a period.”

Temporary incumbency

It argues that the office tenure of a Cabinet Secretary is tied to that of the President. Therefore, a CS cannot nominate or appoint public officers during a president’s temporary incumbency.

The group has listed the CS, the chairman of the ICT Authority, which is being represented in the suit by lawyer Kibiru Njenga, and the Attorney General as respondents.

The authority advertised the CEO position on May 5 and 13. For Mr Mucheru, Mr Kamanguya was competitively and procedurally appointed before the court issued the orders. 

“The court has no mandate to interfere with the lawful exercise of authority by the Cabinet Secretary. The court would be acting excess of its powers by reversing an appointment undertaken by another competent public body in conformity with the law in place,” he says.

But the lobby says that after the finalisation of the recruitment for over two months, Mr Mucheru made the appointment during a transition period. It wants court to declare that the tenure of a CS is tied to that of the President, hence a CS cannot nominate or appoint public officers during a president’s temporary incumbency period.

It is also seeking an order invalidating any appointments or nominations of public officers by CS Mucheru during the temporary incumbency provided under Article 134 of the Constitution.

It further seeks an order nullifying the Gazette notice whose effect was to make appointments during temporary incumbency.

The dispute comes at a time when the world has stepped up ICT investment in all sectors to spur economic growth and enhance service delivery.

Dr Ronoh initially served as the director for programmes and standards at the authority.

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