ODM roots for review of cap on ministerial slots

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021 00:00 |
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo/PD/Bernard Malonza

Kepher Otieno

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s troops in the National Assembly have been instructed to support a motion that seeks to remove the cap on the number of ministers who can be appointed to the Cabinet.

The ODM lawmakers are expected to team up with their Jubilee Handshake partners to amend an already existing Bill that seeks to revise Article 152 of the Constitution to allow the President choose Cabinet Secretaries from Members of Parliament.

The Bill has been sponsored by West Mugirango MP Vincent Kemosi. The Kemosi Bill, which is in the Second Reading, seeks an amendment to Article 152 of the Constitution to allow appointment of ministers from Parliament but ODM wants it amended further to remove the limit on the number of ministers which is currently pegged at 22.

ODM Deputy Party leader Wycliffe Oparanya argues it was unfair to fix the number of cabinet secretaries.

“Capping the number of ministerial positions limits the sitting President from ensuring wide dispersal of power after each general election,” he argued.

Oparanya disclosed that the issue had emerged at a recent meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila and One Kenya Alliance leaders Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula  at State House, Mombasa.

During the meeting, he explained, the Head of State had raised concerns over using the law to limit powers conferred on the President to appoint Cabinet Secretaries.

“He told us that Kenya had not yet democratically matured. That Kenya was still deeply polarised on ethnic lines.

It not easy to ensure ecological balance of power and authority,” Oparanya told People Daily.

The Kakamega Governor said leaders at the Mombasa meeting were asked to prevail upon their Members of Parliament to enact laws that promote national values and cohesion.

The move could be seen as a fallback position after the collapse of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that had sought to expand the Executive by creating more positions at the top.

Article 152 (2) of the Constitution says the President shall nominate and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint 22 Cabinet Secretaries.

The Kemosi Bill has been approved by the Committee on Budget and Appropriations.

It has also been give green light by the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chaired by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni.

Kioni has indicated that the Kemosi Bill was a fall back after collapse of the BBI Bill.

Yesterday, Oparanya said the President had cited some ministries such as Roads and Infrastructure one, saying it was too big to be handled by one person in a single docket. 

“What is the rationale of forming a cabinet largely dominated by a section of the Kenyan community?

This is because the ruling elite will always first of all consider their loyalists and reward them with plum cabinet positions whenever to they form a new government,” said Oparanya, a two-time governor and a strong Raila ally.

Besides expansion of the Cabinet, there is a strong push to bring back Cabinet Secretaries to the bicameral House following the approval of the Constitution of Kenya (amendment) Bill Number 40 of 2020 in its current form.

Divergent views

Kioni said his committee will not be proposing any amendments to the Bill following Speaker Justin Muturi’s ruling that no amendment can be proposed to a Bill seeking to amend the Constitution.

The committee made the remarks even as the public expressed divergent views over whether the Bill should be passed to allow Cabinet Secretaries to be drawn from Parliament.

“The committee, noting the proposals from the public and having considered the same together with the Court of Appeal decision in Civil Appeal no E291 of 2021 over the constitutionality of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment, recommends that the Bill be adopted and passed without amendments,” reads the committee’s report.

The Bill proposes that Cabinet Ministers be drawn from Parliament as opposed to the current situation where they are technocrats and loyalists of the President.

The same will apply at the county level where governors will appoint Members of County Assembly to their cabinet.

It also seeks to allow the President to assign the Attorney General duties of a Cabinet minister.

According to the committee, members of the public drawn from Kakamega, Kisumu and Uasin Gishu counties, which they visited, had similar reasons for supporting or opposing the Bill.

While some proposed that the Bill should be amended to allow the President to appoint 50 per cent of the Cabinet from Parliament and the other 50 per cent from persons who are not MPs, others proposed that minimum education requirement to be appointed CS and CECM should be a degree.

In addition, while others proposed that the position of Chief Administrative Secretaries be abolished, others proposed a reduction of retirement age including ministers and CECMs to allow young people to get employment.

In particular, those who supported the Bill said having CSs in Parliament would enhance accountability of the Cabinet and the County Executive Committee Members to the people as Cabinet Secretaries appointed from outside Parliament owe allegiance to their appointing authority.

They also claimed that CSs and CECMs, who are appointed from legislators would be more responsive to issues affecting the citizenry, as they are directly accountable to the public.

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