Speaker questions new CASs jobs bid
The establishment of the position of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) is again facing hurdles after the Speaker of the National Assembly questioned the constitutionality of the same.
Deputy Speaker Gladys Shollei who delivered the ruling on the constitutionality of the National Government Administration Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023, noted that the fact that the matter was current before the court further complicates the proposed law.
“You are aware of the constitutionality of the office of the CAS, whereas Parliament may consider a proposal to establish the position, knowledge of the pending court matter must inform any such consideration,” reads the ruling. “In my considered view, it is imperative for the Committee of the House, charged with overseeing constitutional affairs to thoroughly scrutinise the proposed amendments of the bill and ensure they agree with the Constitution and written law.”
She referred the bill, which is in its First Reading, to the Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to determine whether it was rightly before the House. “In this regard and under the provisions of Standing Order 127 (1), I, therefore, refer the National Government Administration Laws (Amendment) Bill 2023 to the Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs,” directed the Speaker.
In March, the High Court stopped newly appointed CASs from assuming office pending the hearing and determination of a suit filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Katiba Institute.
Justice Hedwig Ong’undi also temporarily barred the 50 CASs from earning any salary, remuneration and benefit until the court rules on the matter. “Having read through the annexures, I am satisfied that interim conservatory orders are necessary. I, therefore, grant Prayer No.2 of the Notice of Motion in the interim,” Ong’undi ruled.
Petitioners argued the President cannot constitutionally create an office in the public service except upon the express recommendation of the Public Service Commission. They further argued that the President, by nominating the 50 CASs to the office against an approved office establishment of 23, had unconstitutionally created 27 extra positions.
“Article 3 of the Constitution commands all interested parties to reject any unconstitutional appointment, office, or benefit as their obligation to defend and protect the Constitution,” the petitioners told the court. The list of the 50 nominees who are set to take up positions in various ministries majorly comprises political losers and loyalists of the current administration.
The committee, Shollei further directed is encouraged to facilitate public participation on the Bill in the usual manner during the recess period that is about to commence.
“Where necessary, the committee may sit jointly with the Departmental Committee on Administration and Internal Security to address specific matters in the bill that require the input of the counterpart committee,” she ordered.
Shollei told the committee chaired by Tharaka MP George Murugara while considering the bill, to lend particular weight to the underlying legal issues in the proposals made by the Bill.
She told members that from a reading of the memorandum and objects and reasons of the Bill, the proposals in the Bill also seek to include the secretary to the National Security Council and the PS responsible for Defence as members of the Assumption of Office President Committee.
It also seeks to increase the nominees of the President-elect within the committee from three to six members.
Further, the executive wants to introduce the National Security Advisor as the secretary to the national security council and establish a National Security Council committee, and also replace the Attorney-General as the custodian of the Public Seal with the head of the public service.
The Bill seeks to establish and delineate the functions of the head of the public service and the offices of the CAS.
The Speaker said a majority of the amendments of the bill relate to the administration of government. However, the changes that the bill ultimately seeks to achieve relate to significant constitutional and legal matters. She said, “In seeking to alter the role of government bodies and officials, the bill affects the independence of the bodies and existing checks and balances within government.”