Consumers’ lobby faults principal secretaries jobs notice

  Prof Margaret Kobia, the PSC chairman at a past function. She said more than 1,000 had applied for the jobs. FILE
Prof Margaret Kobia, the PSC chairman at a past function. She said more than 1,000 had applied for the jobs. FILE 

Lobbying for senior government positions intensified Thursday as the Public Service Commission (PSC) readvertised vacancies for principal secretaries.

PSC chairlady Margaret Kobia said it was forced to readvertise the positions following criticism from some quarters that it had jumped the gun by floating the positions before the new administration and its structure was known.

“We have received 1,301 applications, including from former PSs and parastatal executives. They are competitive positions and extending the period by a week will enhance this,” said Prof Kobia.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya, however, said the readvertisement raised fears that the commission was targeting to appoint certain people favoured by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government. To address the concerns, Cofek said the names of those who have applied should be made public.

“Clearly, a re-advertisement can only be justified in the event the recruiting panel has either considered the applications and/or interviewed shortlisted candidates, and with reason, believe that the applicants are unsuitable,” Cofek secretary general, Mr Stephen Mutoro, said in a statement.

Prof Kobia said the applications so far received were from people of diverse backgrounds including permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals executives and private sector executives.

“We are not under pressure from anybody. We just want to give a chance to more qualified people. Those talking of lists elsewhere should know that under the Constitution only PSC can forward the names to the President and not vice versa,” Prof Kobia said.

She added that those who had applied would be considered together with the new candidates and should not reapply.

The PSC will forward 66 names, three for each of the 22 ministries, from which President Kenyatta would then pick those to be vetted by Parliament. She estimated the recruitment could be completed within two weeks after the applications close on Tuesday next week.

“After the applications close we will short list. We can come up with the final list even without interviewing to shorten the process,” Prof Kobia said, adding that public participation, competence and other constitutional requirements would be safeguarded through the vetting in Parliament.

The public would also be invited to make comments on the nominees once their names are tabled in Parliament.

Thursday’s was the third invitation for the positions in as many months following the one in February and a reminder last month.

Lobbying for the positions is being done on the basis of several factors including age, national outlook and representations for the youth, the marginalised, the disabled and women.

While PSC would give the President a representative list in line with the Constitution, sources said the Jubilee Coalition wanted people below the age of 50 to be principal secretaries.

Some qualified technocrats in government, the sources added, had been reluctant to apply for fear of being taken to ministries which are considered less glamorous.

Prof Kobia said the PSC would only give the pool of skilled personnel from which the President would pick nominees, assigning them the dockets.

Cofek argued that the readvertisement violated Article 47 of the Constitution on fair administrative action in the sense that it should be expeditious, efficient, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

“It appears that the Commission wishes to favour some preferred candidates who may not have applied during the open windows of February 8 and March 1, 2013,” said Mr Mutoro, adding that the readvertisements should have been explained.

Prof Kobia said that as the human resource department of the Executive, PSC had a duty to support government agenda by providing competent personnel in line with the Constitution.

“The list will also take care to have a national outlook, including from marginalised groups, women, youth and the disabled,” she said.

A principal secretary will be paid between Sh655,875 and Sh874,500 as the minimum and maximum – including both basic pay and allowances. Previously, permanent secretaries who occupied similar position, were paid a basic salary of between Sh400,000 and Sh1.1 million but with a wide latitude in terms of allowances.

The term of service for a principal secretary is five years but the President retains the power to move them from ministry to ministry.