President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday rejected attempts by Members of Parliament to fire two top officials running the anti-corruption agency currently working on cases involving suspended Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, governors and MPs.
The President refused to assent to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which had sought to send home the EACC chief executive officer Halakhe Waqo and his deputy Michael Mubea.
But the President upheld the MPs’ resolve that the appointments to EACC be carried out by Public Service Commission, which is an arm of the Executive, instead of a selection panel made up of representatives of key stakeholder institutions and groups.
Instead, the Head of State returned the Bill to the National Assembly citing the legal provision to accord the two fair administrative action, suggesting that they undergo fresh vetting after the recruitment of new commissioners.
Sacking the two would have plunged EACC into a leadership crisis as they head the EACC secretariat that is overseeing operations at the commission after the three commissioners quit office under pressure from the Executive.
Mumo Matemu resigned as chairman alongside commissioners Irene Keino and Jane Onsongo, with reports suggesting top Government officials pressured them to quit to pave way for reconstitution of the anti-graft body.
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Had the President sanctioned the sacking of the only two officials left at the helm of EACC, it would have heightened claims that the Jubilee Government had all along wanted to undermine the war on corruption by killing the anti-graft body.
It was Waqo who presented a list of top officials implicated in corruption to the President who subsequently forwarded it to Parliament in March and which became the basis upon which those implicated were pressed to step aside to allow investigations.
Two cabinet secretaries who have since been charged in court have challenged their cases by questioning whether EACC, without commissioners, was legally constituted to press the charges against them.
If the secretariat, which is overseeing investigations and forwarding the files to the Director of Public Prosecution who has the final say on their recommendations to prosecute, was purged, it would complicate future cases against the prominent individuals.
Coming after the US and Kenyan government signed an anti-corruption agreement during last month’s visit by US President Barack Obama, who condemned how corruption had stunted growth, President Kenyatta was unlikely to have endorsed action that had even been interpreted by governance lobbies as a conspiracy against the war on graft.
In an action that will not sit down well with MPs who had wanted a complete purge of the current EACC, the President effectively gave Waqo and Mubea a new lease of life at the helm of the anti-corruption agency by rejecting Clause Six which had been introduced by Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini MP).
The president argued that removing the concerned officers “without following the terms of their contracts would amount to removal by operation of the law, contrary to Section 17 (2) of the Act where the commissioner should be given written reasons for his removal”.
The President’s action now means that the Bill proceeds to the relevant House Committee before being brought back to the floor of the House.
Any member proposing amendments to the Bill will be required to take into account the president’s objections.
President Kenyatta categorically rejected the replacement of the selection panel with the PSC, arguing that the National Assembly must clarify the intention of such a move.
The President wants the secretariat to continue serving at EACC, but have the opportunity to be vetted upon the appointment of new commissioners.
Wamalwa, however, said that the president’s memorandum does not violate the original intention of his amendment.
He argued that his original objective had been to ensure that the incoming CEO was recruited competitively.