The Labour ministry has shifted the responsibility of appointing a director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) nominated by the workers union back to State House after President Uhuru Kenyatta issued an ultimatum over the hiring.
PS Peter Tum told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the ministry had forwarded a draft gazette notice on the appointment to Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua for direction.
President Kenyatta on Sunday ordered Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui to gazette the appointment of the second Cotu nominee, Rose Omamo, to the NSSF board.
The ministry had declined to approve the appointment of the Cotu nominee since September, triggering court fights and stalling NSSF board meetings.
On Wednesday, the ministry insisted it remained uncomfortable with Ms Omamo’s appointment to the board, adding it had handed a dossier on the nominee, detailing reasons for its opposition, to Mr Kinyua.
Mr Tum told MPs that the ministry had reservations about Ms Omamo’s academic standing, citing her lack of post-secondary school qualifications.
“We have handed a draft gazette notice to the Head of Public Service alongside a dossier explaining that our position has not changed on the nominee qualifications,” Mr Tum said.
“If he approves the gazette notice, we will gazette. The nominee has Form Four qualifications.”
Mr Kenyatta’s ultimatum to have Ms Omamo’s appointed to the board expired on Wednesday, adding a fresh twist to the six-month stalemate that has grounded meetings at the State-backed pension fund following a January court order.
Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli had last December moved to court accusing Mr Chelugui of leaving out one of its two nominees when he gazetted the NSSF board of trustees on October 28.
Mr Atwoli argued in court documents the Labour CS appointed Isaac Okello, but left out Ms Rose Omamo — the secretary-general of Amalgamated Workers Union — who also sits on the executive committee of the umbrella workers’ union.
Cotu had forwarded the two names on August 12 as the term of the previous directors, including Mr Atwoli, was ending in September.
“I apologise for arriving late. We were handling the matter of the presidential order to ensure we gazette a staff of Cotu to the NSSF board. We have a problem, we don’t want to supervise Cotu or FKE [Federation of Kenya Employers] but they must meet minimum requirements,” Mr Tum told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Mr Tum appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries on the financial statements of the State Department of Labour for the year 2020/21.
He said the NSSF trustees whose appointments were gazetted met the minimum requirements.
“But we will gazette because it was a presidential directive. We have been given the name,” Mr Tum said.
Mr Tum did not disclose the minimum qualifications for one to be appointed to the NSSF board of trustees.
But the NSSF Act, 2013 does not set qualifications for one to be appointed to the board of trustees.
PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi demanded to know why another qualified person cannot be appointed to represent Cotu on the board.
“But the President did not say you gazette the same nominee. Why don’t you get another representative of Cotu?” he asked.
Mr Tum said they have been given the same name for gazettement.
Speaking on Sunday during the International Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi that was presided by Mr Kenyatta, Mr Atwoli asked the President to intervene on the appointment of the remaining Cotu nominee.
“Your government cannot appoint anybody for us nor can we appoint somebody to sit on the board of the NSSF for the government or for employers,” Mr Atwoli told the President.
“She [Ms Omamo] is qualified in every aspect of representation, very effective to represent us on that particular board. To date, the government has not gazetted her for reasons not known to us, employers or anybody.”
In directing the minister to appoint the second Cotu nominee, Mr Kenyatta emphasised that workers “must be allowed to oversight their money” on the board of the NSSF, whose assets amounted to Sh290.3 billion last December.
The court had issued orders restraining the board from convening any meetings in the absence of Cotu’s representatives.
Under the NSSF Act, the trustees are to hold office for a three-year term and are eligible for re-appointment for one final term and may be removed by the Labour CS for various reasons.
Cotu says in court documents that it is entitled to two representatives and that the minister did not give an explanation for not gazetting the second nominee.