NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua wants Ministers and Permanent Secretaries held personally accountable for grand scandals that emerge on their watch.
Ms Karua on Thursday dismissed the current trend of sacking top managers and other lower staff members in the clean ups that follow mega scandals, while leaving the top brass untouched, including Cabinet Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.
“All of us keep on saying it wasn’t me, it is somebody else in the ministry. It cannot just be the managers,” the Minister asserted.
“If it is something the Permanent Secretary as the chief executive ought to have known, then together with the Minister if they failed to do their duty, they ought to take political responsibility.”
Addressing the Kenya We Want Conference, Ms Karua challenged President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to take decisive action when the Ministers and PS’ concerned fail to take political responsibility.
“We (Ministers) must examine ourselves, but we also need to get a feedback from you,” she said.
Her remarks came in the wake of numerous scandals in the country that has seen the sacking of top managers at the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is currently investigating several cases of fraud that have rocked the pipeline company and agriculture ministry, where the country is said to have lost billions of shillings.
The country is poised to lose Sh7.6 billion in an oil related scandal involving KPC officials and an oil company, Triton Petroleum. And even as 10 million Kenyans face starvation, misappropriation has been reported at the country’s grain stores, NCPB, involving close to a billion shillings.
But it is the way corruption is handled by the executive that Ms Karua expressed her dissent with.
“We are not bold as Kenyans to execute the reforms we claim. We say we want reforms but we fall short and when someone is touched, the party or community comes up. Are we really genuine?” the Justice Minister who has her eyes on the presidency posed.
The three day conference, organised by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga, opened on Wednesday and is seeking to generate key recommendations for a better Kenya. The country is currently wallowing in famine, corruption, inefficiencies in the public sector, poor infrastructure, and poor social services among others.
The Justice Minister also proposed key reforms in the judiciary; a clean up in the government’s arm that has lost much of public faith over the years. She called for the reconstitution of the Judicial Service Commission to include persons other than judges and magistrates.
“We need monitoring of output by both judges and magistrates. The judiciary must come up with a mechanism, which combines both the judiciary and external experts well versed in law,” she said.
Ms Karua threw her weight behind the proposal to have the courts reconstituted, where all the judges and magistrates re-apply for their jobs. She however called for a more consultative forum in the appointment of judges.
She was also keen to point fingers at the executive, saying it too required reforms.