Ruto sidesteps petition as CASs are sworn in ahead of hearing

Ruto presides over swearing-in of 50 CAS nominees

President William Ruto on Thursday formally appointed the 50 chief administrative secretaries (CAS) as the fight against the appointments raged in court yesterday.

As the CASs were sworn in at State House, in court, where a petitioner wants the appointments declared illegal, the Attorney-General applied to have the name of the President struck out of the lawsuit. The AG said the petitioner, Eliud Karanja Matindi, erred in suing the President in his personal capacity. 

In a preliminary objection to the lawsuit, the AG also said the dispute ought to be struck out for being filed in the wrong jurisdiction—the High Court’s Constitutional and Human Rights Division. The AG, through state counsel Emmanuel Bitta, questioned the powers of the constitutional division to hear and determine the issues raised by the petitioner as they concern employment.

Justice Hedwig Ong’undi of the Constitutional and Human Rights Division in Milimani Nairobi said that the request by the petitioner for interim orders stopping the appointment and swearing-in was overtaken by events following the swearing-in of the CASs. 

The judge directed the National Assembly, Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Public Service Commission, Controller of Budget and all the 50 CASs to file their responses to the preliminary objection by the AG before close of business on March 27.

The petitioner protested the decision of the National Assembly to decline to vet the nominees, their gazettement on Wednesday night and their subsequent swearing-in today morning. 

“The President went on to appoint and swear the 50 CASs this morning. His actions were aimed at defeating the cause of justice in this matter,” Mr Matindi stated in court.

“The appointing authority put themselves above the constitution and went ahead to violate the constitution while aware of the active case in court. I was seeking orders to avoid violation of the constitution and misuse of money and to give the court time to consider the substantive motion,” he added.

Mr Matindi further informed the judge that he will be seeking orders to stop the 50 CASs from being paid until the matter is heard and determined.

“I will still want the court to hear the application and also grant orders restraining any state officer from authorising the payment of the 50 CASs until the matter is heard and determined,” Mr Matindi said.

In the case, Mr Matindi is seeking to quash the decision of President Ruto to create an additional 27 CAS positions. According to him, the Public Service Commission had allowed the creation of only 23 positions. 

“Nominating 50 persons for appointment to the office of CAS, when 23 vacancies were proposed by the PSC, advertised and recruited to, is untenable by all accounts,” Mr Matindi states in the lawsuit. 

Mr Matindi contends that the additional CAS positions are irregular and the court should intervene. According to him, the nominations and the appointments were riddled with unconstitutionality. His other contention is that the appointments will increase the public wage bill since the gross monthly remuneration for CASs is Sh765,188, excluding other benefits.

“The President is on record stating that there is no other office in the public service similar to the office of CAS. It has been estimated that the annual cost in remunerations and benefits for the 50 nominees if appointed as intended, could be approximately Sh450 million,” he argues.

Mr Matindi also states that a scrutiny of the 50 persons nominated by the President and the 240 shortlisted candidates “clearly shows that it is overwhelmingly dominated by his political allies”.

Some of those who were sworn in yesterday were Millicent Omanga, Benjamin Washiali, Dennis Itumbi, Cate Waruguru, Charles Njagua, Beatrice Nkatha, Evans Kidero and Isaac Mwaura.