Recently Employment and Labour Relations Court directed President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretaries to advertise positions of chairpersons and board members of all parastatals and state agencies. Politicians appointed to plum state positions risk being thrown out by the courts following a ruling requiring all parastatal jobs to be filled competitively. Activist Okiya Omtatah yesterday challenged in court the legality of the appointments. His move set the stage for a legal battle that could deal the nominees a blow.
Omtatah said the handpicking of the individuals was a breach of the Constitution and unnecessarily locked out other qualified Kenyans. “On February 4 and 8, the respondents defied the orders when they handpicked and appointed individuals to be chairpersons and members of boards of state corporations and state agencies,” Omtatah said in his petition. The ruling could throw political rejects under the bus by locking them out of automatic jobs in powerful and influential state corporations. They are now required to apply and compete with other Kenyans for the positions.
Omtatah said the appointments had not followed constitutional values and procedures of the rule of law, fairness, inclusiveness, competitiveness, merit and openness. The Executive ignored the order when Uhuru and some CSs picked a couple of politicians who lost in the last general election as well as prominent personalities to take up positions in the state agencies without advertising the vacancies. The respondents include State Corporations Advisory Committee, Public Service Commission, the National Executive and the Attorney General.
Omtatah asked the court to declare the appointments null and void. Among the agencies that received new appointments are National Transport and Safety Authority, Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, Rural Electrification Board, Water Resources Authority, Water Services Regulatory Authority and Lappset among others. The beneficiaries include former Governors Joshua Irungu (Laikipia) and David Nkedianye (Kajiado).
Irungu was appointed chairperson of the Water Services Resource Board for the next three years while Nkedianye takes over as chairperson National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority. Others are former Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambo who was named chairperson of Water Resource Authority and former Machakos gubernatorial aspirant Wavinya Ndeti. Gonzi Rai, who lost the Kinango parliamentary seat, former assistant minister Kalembe Ndile and former Taita Taveta Woman Representative Joyce Lay are in the list of those who risk losing their jobs.
Justice Hellen Wasilwa outlawed uncompetitive appointments to state agencies in a case where Omtatah had contested the appointment of chairperson and members of the Kenya Trade Network Agency Board. She said the appointments must be transparent and not arbitrary. Omtatah wants the appointments quashed because they violate the law and are in contempt of court.