Cord leader Raila Odinga has supported the appointment of Mr Francis Muthaura to chair a parastatal, but has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to apologise for “glaring mistakes” in some of his other placements.
Mr Odinga said government appointments should recognise competence and ensure both efficiency and regional balance.
He spoke as President Kenyatta defended the appointments of 36 parastatal heads following claims of favouritism. Mr Kenyatta said there were more positions in government to be filled.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Odinga said his support for Mr Muthaura does not mean a blanket endorsement of all those who have been appointed.
“Far from it. Competence, background and reputation matter. A chairman who does not understand the issues creates a lot of problems for the CEO,” Mr Odinga said.
But he also added that the appointments should reflect the face of Kenya.
Mr Odinga said there were glaring mistakes in some of President Kenyatta’s appointments “which the Executive should admit, apologise for, and do a correction”.
For instance, he said, naming of former presidential candidate Abduba Dida to head the Constituency Development Fund board was illegal.
“Appointment to that position is purely parliamentary. It has nothing to do with the Executive, the same way the Executive cannot purport to appoint the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission,” Mr Odinga said.
“This is one appointment where the Executive need not go frontal with Kenyans. They just need to admit that a mistake was done and do a correction. Kenyans will understand.”
President Kenyatta and his Deputy, Mr William Ruto, have come under heavy criticism for appointing their allies and political losers to head parastatals, disregarding youth, women and regional balance. The appointments also go against the promise to reform parastatals after a task force submitted its report last year.
Asked what his position was on picking of politicians and retirees to head parastatals, Mr Odinga said: “The issue should not be the age and the gender of the appointee or whether the appointee is or was a politician.
“It should be the ability of the appointee and whether the laid-down procedures have been followed.”
He said boards of directors were today increasingly involved in development of policy and supervisory roles over parastatals, thus appointees should have sufficient experience and technical knowledge of what the institutions do.
“This is anticipated in Vision 2030 and the Constitution promulgated in 2010. If a politician is competent in these areas, I see no problem if they are appointed,” Mr Odinga said.
He said successful parastatals in the previous government were those whose chairpersons and board members had relevant technical experience.
“With this in mind, I feel Francis Muthaura is a suitable choice to chair the Lapsset board,” Mr Odinga said.
He said Mr Muthaura was deeply involved in the conceptualisation of the Lapsset project when he was Head of Public Service and he was certain that Mr Muthaura would steer the corporation well “because his heart is in it”.
“He is professional and I am sure he will not interfere much with the day-to-day running of the organisation. Muthaura cannot be looking for a job. He is keen to serve his country for as long as he is alive, and I cannot think of a better person for that position. Lapsset will now move forward. I’m sure about that,” Mr Odinga said.
He said corporation chairmen should be non-executive and should be paid honoraria and sitting allowances. He warned of danger when the chairmanships of state corporations are dished out as jobs “for people who have nothing to do and who are looking for salaries”.
“Due diligence needs to be done on those being appointed so that it is not a case of ‘so and so who worked for us, does not have a job now, so let us give him something so that he can earn a living’,” Mr Odinga said.
He added that board members should be professionals.
“If board members are daily reporting to the institution and drawing salaries, they become part of the mess the corporations may land in. They need to be detached individuals who drop in from time to time to chair meetings and receive briefs and also offer insights,” he said.
Mr Odinga warned that if chairmen are appointed to earn a living and without due diligence, then there is the possibility of conflict with CEOs appointed competitively to deliver results.
President Kenyatta has, however, asked Kenyans to be patient, saying the jobs he had given out were just a small percentage of what was available.
Through the Director of External Communication, Mr Munyori Buku, the President said the concerns raised had come too early in the day.
“The complaints are akin to fighting over morning dew while the rains are yet to fall. Only a small part of government has been filled up,” said Mr Buku.
According to other State House sources, the 36 parastatal positions whose heads have been named are part of the 186 positions available.
Speaking in Uasin Gishu on Friday evening, Mr Ruto criticised political leaders who were questioning the Jubilee government’s appointments.
“Those making a lot of noise in the Jubilee government are remnants of past governments and instead of always criticising President Kenyatta’s appointments of heads of different government departments, they should come to me and ask why the President is doing so,” Mr Ruto said.
“As we begin the year, leaders should know that Kenyans expect a lot from us. We should come together despite which coalitions we voted for so that we can unite all Kenyans and make sure we implement all the programmes in both the national and county governments for the benefit of the nation,” he said.
He said leaders who only look at Kenyans through tribal lenses had no place in the society.
In Mombasa, a group of Muslim leaders faulted President Kenyatta’s decision to appoint Mr Muthaura as the Lapsset authority chairman.
They argued that the President erred in law by appointing Mr Muthaura to the same position that his predecessor, Mr Mwai Kibaki, had appointed Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak 10 months ago.
The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) leaders asked Mr Kenyatta to consider revoking Mr Muthaura’s appointment and reinstating Prof Shaukat.
CIPK national secretary-general Sheikh Mohammed Dor, national chairman Sheikh Mohammed Idris and organising secretary Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa asked Mr Kenyatta to offer the former Head of the Civil Service another job.
“We have no ill-feelings against Mr Muthaura. Our argument is based on merit,” they said.
“The President is expected to respect the legal decision made by his predecessor who appointed Prof Shaukat to the head the Lapsset project.
“We wish to also remind him that part of the agenda of his Jubilee government before coming to power was to offer jobs to young technocrats like Prof Shaukat and not senior citizens.”
MWINYI CRIES FOUL
Separately, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi also accused the President of overlooking young people in his recent appointments.
Other political leaders, including Mr Shariff Ali (Lamu East), Ms Shakila Abdalla (Lamu County Women’s Representative) and Mr Abdulswamad Nassir of Mvita said Mr Muthaura lacked expertise in port development.
However, Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda and Kangema’s Tirus Ngahu said the President had not broken any law by appointing former politicians and former civil servants to the parastatal jobs.
The MP said the President is the custodian of the Jubilee manifesto and has the right to choose those who can help him realise it. Mr Sakuda said Mr Kenyatta will only need five years to prove his choices were right.
Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi (ODM) and his Igembe North counterpart Joseph M’Eruaki (TNA) challenged Mr Kenyatta to be “sensitive to the balance of power in his key strongholds”.
“All the more than 20 parastatal jobs held by Meru sons come from one sub-group. Yet we have more people and constituencies. Our people feel slighted,” said Mr Aburi.
“We hunted the antelope together. But when it is down, all the major parts are going with certain people. We are asking for a prime part, not the meat that will remain,” Mr M’Eruaki said.
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar said: “Political rewards cannot be separated from such appointments but no one should be discriminated against.”
Mr Omar questioned the promise that more positions were on the way.