Vetting of public officials to follow law

March 31, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 31 – A Bill  that seeks to standardise the vetting process for professionals seeking plum government jobs when they appear before Parliament for vetting has been formally introduced in the House.

The Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Bill 2011, which went through the First Reading, seeks to lay down the rules for a structured screening of candidates that is devoid of political mischief, back-room horse trading and partisanship that has characterised recent deliberations of parliamentary committees.

According to Garsen MP Danson Mungatana who sponsored the Bill, the aim is to restore the integrity of public institutions by blocking people of questionable character from occupying high office.

All applicants to public positions will be required to make thorough declarations of their wealth, their political affiliations and relationship with other senior public officers to the relevant committees of the National Assembly and the Senate before they can secure the mandatory green-light they need to occupy senior public positions.

Candidates will also be screened for integrity, experience and education background signalling the end of an era when people with tainted character served in senior public positions at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Apart from following a standardised questionnaire, the MPs have to communicate their decision to the appointing authority in writing within seven days.

The Bill comes at a time when appointments to Constitutional and Statutory offices have caused bruising political battles between the government coalition partners.

President Kibaki withdrew his nominees for positions of Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Budget Controller amid stiff opposition from Prime Minister Raila Odinga, civil society groups and hostile court rulings.

At the centre of the controversy was whether the President followed the right procedure in making the appointments.

If the Bill is passed in its current form, every applicant for a senior public job will furnish the relevant parliamentary committee with complete information in a standardised form provided for in the law.

The proposed law seeks to give parliamentary committees the same powers as the High Court in enforcing the appearance of witnesses and examining them on oath.

Such witnesses will also be compelled to produce documents and the committee reserve the right to commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.

Failure to obey an order made by a parliamentary committee to attend a vetting session or to produce papers, books, documents or records will attract a fine not exceeding Sh200,000 or imprisonment of one year or both according the Bill.

Anyone who refuses to be examined by the committee will face similar sanctions if the Bill is passed.

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