News 2008


Protest over premier’s job

Daily Nation


11. March 2008

A storm is brewing over the powers of the Prime Minister after the Head of the Civil Service revealed the structure of the new coalition government Monday.

According to Mr Francis Muthaura, who is also the Secretary to the Cabinet, the President will retain the powers to appoint the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers under the power-sharing agreement brokered by Mr Kofi Annan.

But a group allied to ODM immediately protested at the move by Mr Muthaura saying he lacked the powers to interpret the power-sharing deal between President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga who is expected to be appointed as the Prime Minister.

Chair the Cabinet

Mr Muthaura had said: “The Vice-President, Prime Minister, deputy Prime Ministers and all ministers are directly responsible to the President. The President will continue to chair the Cabinet”.

He also said that appointments to the public service, parastatals and other constitutional bodies were not subject to the power-sharing deal. According to him, such appointees were expected to serve all Kenyans equally and their jobs could not be politicised.

But Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojodeh of ODM alleged that Mr Muthaura was taking over the powers of Parliament by defining the roles of the President, VP and PM.

Debate on a Bill to legalise the power-sharing agreement is expected to start on the floor of Parliament this week.

“Muthaura has no powers to usurp the powers of Parliament,” Mr Ojodeh said in an interview with the Nation.

However, Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo of ODM Kenya defended Mr Muthaura arguing that the secretary to the Cabinet was discharging “the administrative side” of the political deal signed between President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga on February 28. “Muthaura is not in any way interfering with the duty of Parliament,” Mr Kilonzo said.

Interpret deal

Earlier, Dr Amukowa Anangwe, Mr Salim Lone and former MPs Peter Odoyo and Philip Okundi of ODM had said that Mr Muthaura had no authority “to interpret the deal signed between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga”.

Dr Anangwe said the National Accord states that: “The Prime Minister shall have authority to co-ordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs of the Government, including those of Ministries.”

According to him, the power sharing was at two levels: Cabinet and Government, and that include the civil service and parastatals. He also said any statement interpreting the content of the accord must be jointly released by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

Mr Muthaura spoke amid reports that ODM was likely to get a share of key jobs in the public service, including those of permanent secretaries, envoys, parastatal chiefs and in the judiciary among others.

Flanked by Government spokesman Alfred Mutua, Mr Muthaura said that President Kibaki retained his responsibilities as the Head of State and Government under the deal mediated by the former UN secretary general.

All permanent secretaries and chairpersons of State corporations, he added, will also be appointed by the President.

Mr Muthaura said the VP is the principal assistant of the President and will retain his position as the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. “This is a Constitutional provision and you don’t expect the Prime Minister to supervise the work of the Vice President,” he said.

Last week, several ODM leaders, including nominated MP Joseph Nyaga, had said that the job of Leader of Government Business in Parliament should be left to the Prime Minister, who will also be leader of the party or coalition with majority of MPs in Parliament.

But Monday, Mr Muthaura sought to clarify the structure of the new government after speculation over the roles to be played by political leaders under the new arrangement.

He said that the structure he was outlining was in line with the National Accord and Reconciliation Agreement that has now been transformed into a Bill to be debated in Parliament.

Describing the PM post as key in the efficiency of Government affairs, Mr Muthaura said the holder of the job will coordinate the operations of Government and supervise the functions of ministries under the authority of the President.

“Government work revolves around the Cabinet. The PM will come in handy in setting up inter-ministerial committees, following up on policy, sometimes developing the policy and ensuring ministries are kept in focus,” Mr Muthaura said.

He said that in line with the accord, Mr Odinga will recommend the MPs to be appointed to the Cabinet “and the President will decide.”

According to him, the power-sharing deal did not touch on the civil service which, he said, was based on professionalism and not political considerations. He warned that any moves to divide the public service along party lines would adversely affect delivery of services.

“The Accord does not include sharing of jobs in the public service. Appointments in the public service are governed by the Constitution or Acts of Parliament,” he said.

Divide public service

“We cannot divide the public service. It is not about politics. It is about serving Kenyans equally regardless of their political standing. That is why the civil service cannot be partisan.”

But he added that other chief executives of parastatals and boards of directors will be appointed by respective ministers.

ODM had been reported to have been demanding a share of permanent secretaries, ambassadors and other top jobs as part of the power-sharing deal.