Why public figures must keep off affairs of independent commissions

DP Rigathi Gachagua has disparaged the SRC through claims he has received complaints about the chairperson.

That the management of some of the independent constitutional commissions was going to be very complicated has always been clear to experienced public servants. These are the commissions that control power and resources: the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC), the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the National Land Commission and the Police Service Commission, just to mention a few.

Since the year 2010, the chairpersons and chief executive officers (CEOs) of these commissions have had several challenges, including being arrested or hounded out of office in one way or another. The chairpersons of the SRC Sarah Serem and Lyn Mengich and the commissioners have had it rough over their tenures due to the fact that they determine salaries and allowances of powerful office holders, including President, the police, the military, as well as low level unionizable public servants prone to agitating such as teachers and doctors.

This commission requires the full backing and protection of the President to function well. The revelation of the Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua  that he has been receiving complaints against the chairperson of the SRC Lyn Mengich and that 98 per cent of them are negative was, to put it mildly, shocking and uncalled for. Further, he said that it was only the President who speaks positively about her.

These statements raise a number of questions. First, who are these people who complain to the DP and why do they do so? Second, does the SRC have performance contracts? Three, are the results of annual evaluation of the contracts of the chairperson available? Four, what are the constitutional provisions for reprimanding or sacking a non performing chairperson or commissioner of a constitutional commission?

Five, did the DP have to inform the President about the complaints against Mengich in public rather than advise him privately as implied by the oath of office that he took upon appointment? Six, was the DP telling the President in public that he was the only one that doesn’t know the reality about the performance of the chairperson even though the President is privy to intelligence reports about government institutions?

Seven, if the SRC, as an independent constitutional commission, could be verbally assaulted, how much more would it have been if it was not independent? Eight, the term of service of Mengich is soon coming to an end; why wouldn’t the DP ignore the complaints against her because it serves to purpose to attack a retiring public servant?

Nine, does the DP believe that the public service wage bill is bloated or not; and if so, what alternative strategies does he prescribe to reduce the wage bill other than those from SRC? And ten, does the chairperson make unilateral decisions or seeks consensus with fellow commissioners?

What is the way forward? To me, the answers to these questions point to three main issues. First, that the President should have inducted his DP and Cabinet on how to govern the country or do it again if he has done so. Some presidents in the region have had a history of subjecting their Cabinets to training by such reputable firms such as the East and Southern Africa Management Institute (ESAMI) in seclusion.

According to the former long serving Director General of ESAMI Professor Beonard Mwabe, former presidents Joachim Chisano, Thabo Mbeki and Jakaya Kikwete of Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania respectively are on record to have done so.

It is time President Ruto borrowed a leaf from them because education matters in governance. Secondly, there seems to be a lack of discipline in the present Cabinet. The President needs to bring them to order. Thirdly, all former vice and deputy presidents had served as Cabinet ministers before being elevated. Gachagua is the exception. Work Experience in public service matters in management of public affairs.

In conclusion, we must acknowledge that the huge wage bill is crowding out resources meant for development. In some county governments, the recurrent expenditure is close to 70 per cent of their revenue. This means that their staff is paid for hardly any work done because there is no money for development.

The outburst by the DP, therefore, is serving as an unwelcome side show from addressing the main agenda of the meeting he was addressing. This is not acceptable.

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281