Uhuru kicks out ministers’ allies from key State jobs
NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered Cabinet secretaries to immediately revoke all irregular appointments to boards of State corporations that cost the taxpayer millions of shillings in allowances.
The President made the order after it emerged that Cabinet secretaries have been using the appointments to reward their cronies who act as gatekeepers in the State firms that collectively control budgets running into billions of shillings.
Although a CS is allowed to appoint persons to serve as independent members of boards, the appointees should be from the private sector and professional bodies to promote diversity and independence.
Shockingly, however, public officers have been incorporated into the boards of State corporations and have been pocketing hefty allowances while at the same time drawing salaries from public coffers.
This has led to wastage similar to that uncovered by the Auditor General after scrutiny of Government expenditure.
Other board members are employed under national and county governments, but continue to claim allowances from board meetings.
The President’s warning is contained in a letter his Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua wrote on July 30 to the Attorney General, all Cabinet secretaries and Principal secretaries. The Chief of Staff noted with concern the emerging trend where public servants flood the boards, which mainly deal with policies, yet they are supposed to be the implementers.
“Their employment in public service compromises their envisaged independence and so the practice should be stopped henceforth,” the letter reads.
“Where any public officer is currently serving as an independent member or director in a board, action should immediately be taken to revoke the appointment and a replacement made as required,” Kinyua added.
Kinyua argued that although CSs are given the leeway to appoint persons to serve as independent members, this has provided them an opportunity to reward cronies.
The letter is copied to Public Service Commission Chairperson Margaret Kobia, Auditor General Edward Ouko, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo and State Corporations Advisory Committee Secretary Jane Mugambi.
And following the circular, reports suggest that PSC has instructed parastatal chiefs to furnish the commission with employment details of all board members. Sources say those found to have illegally benefited from the perks would be surcharged.
“You (board member) are required to forward your employment status indicating the organisation (public, private or self-employment) and the position you hold,” demanded a communication from a parastatal CEO to the board members.
Parastatals are a gravy train for board members drawing sitting, accommodation and transport allowances. For example, a person travelling from Eastern region to Nairobi for a board meeting pockets not less than Sh70,000 for a day’s session. The higher the frequency of meetings the more the perks. The earnings are much higher when they go on foreign trips because they earn rates equivalent to those of Principal secretaries.
State corporations have huge budgets. According to a brief by the International Budget Partnership dated October 2014, the corporations were allocated Sh352 billion in the 2012-13 financial year. But now it’s pay-back time for public servants who have been sitting on various parastatal boards, contrary to the provisions of the State Corporations Act, Cap 46.
The Government is cracking the whip to curb wastage in the civil services as it works towards containing the ever-ballooning wage bill, which presently stands at over Sh500 billion. Kinyua said in the letter about board appointments: “In order to safeguard the independence of the board, only public servants who represent the ministries or other public institutions shall serve as members of the board.”
“An exception to this rule shall only apply where written law has stipulated that such a public officer be so appointed, to academic staff of public universities with relevant knowledge and skills, to researchers serving in a research institute with relevantknowledge and skills and exceptional circumstances as this office may approve on advise by the State Corporations Advisory Committee,” Kinyua said.
This means that the affected persons will cease enjoying the privileges, which come along with their tenure, like claims for transport, accommodation and sitting allowances respectively.
The CSs will now be required to go back to the drawing board and make new appointments.
“It is envisaged that under such circumstances, eligible members from the private sector and professional bodies would be the ones appointed to bring diversity to the board,” states Kinyua.