He told a charged Parliament that the President had taken the action in his administrative capacity adding that the appointments did not require him to consult Prime Minister Raila Odinga or the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution.
“I cannot retract the fact that other ministries have already deployed officers in the counties; I am surprised that those of us who mean well must be beginning to question why those who are opposing never opposed the appointment of the Regional Officers,” said the Internal Security Minister.
He cited the recent decision by the Teachers Service Commission and even some state corporations that had began decentralising their services in line with incoming county structure.
“They will not interfere in any way with the authority of the county governments. Other ministries have already deployed their officers to the counties, why should this one be different?” posed Saitoti.
The Internal Security Minister insinuated that the President acted under the opinion of the Attorney General Githu Muigai who had already given his opinion that the Executive had the powers to transfer officers.
Saitoti said the president considered seniority of the officers, the gender of the candidates, the integrity and performance records of the candidates and regional balance while making the appointments.
“Do not look at this matter as politics,” Saitoti urged Parliament.
Saitoti said the government will restructure the Provincial administration in accordance with legislation which is currently in the drafting stage.
“Indeed the restructuring is going to start; a draft Bill was put into place we are going to ensure that the wananchi, (who are) the stakeholders are going to debate that Bill. it will then be taken to the CIC and it will come here where the members will make the necessary amendments,” he said.
But, ODM MPs led by Joint Government Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, John Mbadi, Rachael Shebesh and Millie Odhiambo said they will not allow the appointees to take up the duties.
MPs told him that the sections that seek merit, transparency and public participation in key government offices, under the new Constitution had not been suspended.
Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba termed the appointments as a ‘coup on devolution.’
He added; “If indeed it was done above board, why is it shrouded in secrecy? Why was it done in a hurry? Why was this not subjected to the legislative process by way of a law in this House? The minister is trying to circumvent the law by engaging in cheap political semantics.”
Temporary Speaker Joyce Laboso was forced to intervene several times during the debate to restore order among the MPs who kept disrupting Saitoti as he adressed the House.
Other MPs supported the appointments urging their colleagues to differentiate between the role of government in devolution and that of national security.
“This concept of consultation is taken out of context, can’t the duly elected President of Kenya, who is an executive President make any administrative decision in his office without being bogged down every so often by the unnecessary consultation?” wondered North Horr MP Chachu Ganya.
During the heated debate Molo MP Joseph Kiuna was ordered out of the House by Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim for disorderly conduct.
The Deputy Speaker promised MPs that the Speaker will rule on the county commissioners next Wednesday.