Night intrigues that paved way for hiring of 50 CASs

Friday, March 24th, 2023 05:00 | By
President William Ruto poses for a photo with 50 newly appointed CASs at State House on March 23, 2023. PHOTO/@WilliamRuto)Twitter

President William Ruto on Wednesday night moved with lightening speed to controversially appoint 50 Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS), paving the way for their swearing-in at dawn yesterday.

The President’s night maneuvers were meant to shield the controversial hirings from being halted by the court.

Acting on intelligence that Justice Hedwig Ong’undi was likely to issue an order stopping the vetting of the CAS by 11am, thus essentially delaying the process further, State House put in motion a series of secretive events that eventually paved the way for the names of the nominees to be gazetted on Wednesday night.

Before sun-up yesterday, the 50 CASs were at State House, Nairobi, ready for their swearing-in, after which the President embarked on a three-day whirlwind tour of Migori, Kisii and Nyamira counties, where he is seeking to chip away at his rival’s Raila Odinga’s influence.

Returned the list

Indications of the unfolding drama surrounding the appointment and swearing-in of the CASs started to emerge late on Wednesday night when State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed issued a statement on social media platforms indicating that National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula had turned down President Ruto’s request for the House to vet the nominees.

According to Mohamed’s statement, Wetang’ula had returned the list to State House on grounds that there was no legal provision requiring Parliament to vet CAS nominees.

  “As a consequence of referral by the Speaker of the National Assembly, which has found that there is no constitutional or statutory basis upon which the August House can vet the nominees, the Head of State and Government caused the appointment of nominees to various Ministries as earlier notified,” Mohamed said.

According to him, the Speaker’s memorandum noted that the obligation to respect, uphold and defend the Constitution enjoins the House to refrain from assuming and discharging roles that have not been expressly assigned to it either by the Constitution or any written law.

It was telling that details of the letter from the Speaker emanated from State House rather than from Parliament. Within minutes of Wetang’ula’s decision being made public, the Government Printer published a special Kenya Gazette notice, through which the President formalised the appointment of nominees. Copies of the notice started circulating on Whatsapp groups way past midnight.

And in what was clearly a rush against time, invites were sent to the 50 nominees, asking them to be seated at the Nairobi State House by 5.30 am in readiness for the swearing-in ceremony. The ceremony was presided over by the Chief Justice Martha Koome.

By the time Justice Ong’undi of Constitutional and Human Rights Division was sitting at Milimani law courts at 11am to make a ruling on a petition filed by a Kenyan citizen residing in the United Kingdom, the swearing-in ceremony was long over. “From what transpired on Wednesday evening and this morning (Thursday), it is clear that the notice of motion by the petitioner is overtaken by events,” Justice Ong’undi ruled as he turned down Eliud Karanja Matindi’s plea to stop the swearing in.

Matindi had wanted to quash President Ruto’s decision to create an additional 27 Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) positions, up from the 23 that PSC had recommended.

“Nominating 50 persons for appointment to the office of CAS, when only 23 vacancies were proposed by the PSC to be advertised and recruited, is untenable by all accounts,” Matindi had said in his petition, which could not be prosecuted after the fact.

“The PSC had proposed, and the President accepted, creation of 23 positions of the office of CAS. The recruitment process carried out by the PSC to recruit persons to the newly-created office was on the basis of there being 23 vacant positions,” Matindi had said in his court papers. He further accused PSC of failure to discharge its constitutional mandate, including its duties under Articles 10, 232, 234 and 249 of the Constitution, by facilitating and superintending over the creation of the additional 27 positions.

Sources told People Daily that the President did not want the recruitment, which has been pending since October, delayed again and had to move with speed to avoid being held back by a court ruling.

Strong case

The President has been keen to complete the formation of his government, and close to seven months after his election, he is yet to finalise on constituting his administration.

“After receiving advise from his legal handlers that Matindi had a strong case and the court was likely to grant him the petition orders, the President moved fast to beat him,” said the source on condition of anonymity.

In October, Justice Monica Mbaru of the Employment and Labour Court suspended plans to establish the office of CAS pending the determination of a petition filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) after the Public Service Commission (PSC) had invited applications for the position.

LSK had argued that setting up the office of CAS was likely to cause a financial strain on Kenyan taxpayers because they would have to pay for the extra salaries and perks for jobs that could be done by Principal Secretaries.

However, on February 16, President Ruto’s government got a reprieve when Justice Mbaru vacated her orders and allowed the process to continue. It was then that PSC embarked on compiling the shortlist, which it then forwarded to the Head of State, who subsequently sent it to Parliament for vetting.

Yesterday, a visibly relieved President Ruto — who presided over the swearing-in ceremony — said his government was now fully constituted and ready to provide services to Kenyans.

“Now with a fully constituted Government, there is absolutely no reason we cannot move with speed and haste to deliver the bottom-up economic transformation agenda upon which our administration was elected,” he said.

 “We are already well on course on some of the commitments that we made on matters to do with supporting the people at the bottom of the pyramid.”

He took the opportunity to warn the CASs that none of them was above the law. “As you serve, it must be within the parameters of the law and the Constitution because we have undertaken, as an administration, that Kenya will be built on a firm foundation of the rule of law,” he told them.

“None of us, irrespective of the position you occupy or responsibilities you have, social or financial status, is above the law… all of us are subject to the law and the Constitution and we must act in such a manner to respect it and provisions of law.”

His warning could also be interpreted as an oblique warning to his political rival, Raila, who has called for countrywide demonstrations on Monday and Thursday next week. The last such protests were held in Nairobi, Kisumu and Migori. Tomorrow, the President is expected to visit some parts of Migori although leaders from the region are divided over the visit, seen as part of the President’s plan to make inroads in what is essentially a Raila stronghold.

 The President also stated he has deliberately been making appointments across the country because it is the Government’s intention to bring the country together. Each of the 47 counties has produced at least one CAS in the latest appointments.

 Work together

“I went out of my way to appoint people who may not have necessarily voted for me because the elections are behind us. We must come together irrespective of how we voted, what political parties we voted for or who we voted for. It is now time for us to come and work together so that we can better serve the millions who expect nothing short of service,” he said.

Meanwhile in court, Matindi protested the decision of the National Assembly communicated by the Speaker declining to vet the nominees. He also criticised their gazettement on Wednesday night and their subsequent swearing-in, which led to the collapse of his case.

According to Matindi, the developments adversely affected his case because the interim orders he had sought were overtaken by events.

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

“The appointing authority put himself above the Constitution, which he went ahead to violate this morning even after being aware of the case being active in court. I am seeking orders against the President for violating the Constitution and misuse of money. I want the court to be given more time to consider the substantive motion.”

 Matindi further informed the judge that he would petition for orders to bar the appointees from being paid until the matter is heard and determined.

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