President Uhuru Kenyatta is considering nominating Dr Monica Juma afresh as Secretary to the Cabinet just days after she was roundly rejected by the National Assembly.
At the same time, claims have emerged that there were attempts by MPs to blackmail the President by asking for favours in return for softening their stand on Dr Juma, requests that a miffed President flatly rejected.
A source familiar with State House matters said the President is prepared for a “long, tough battle” with MPs and is determined to bring sanity to public affairs. “The MPs may have drawn first blood, but the favour will be returned.”
State House is understood to have taken the position that Dr Juma still remains Principal Secretary in the Interior ministry.
“A decision on the next course of action will be taken in due course,” said the source.
The possibilities the Office of the President is considering were lent weight by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery who said: “I would wish to urge the President to resubmit (Dr) Juma’s name and for MPs to look beyond personal interests and work for the good of our nation and not deny Kenyans the best service.”
Nominated Senator Beth Mugo (TNA) separately said: “It’s very sad that such a top professional would be denied an opportunity because of reasons that are more of a personal nature, I think. It really does not augur well. I want to call on the women in the National Assembly to safeguard the gains we have made.
TOP QUALIFIED WOMEN
“I hope that the MPs can reconsider to undo the damage. We should correct this as soon as possible. We are missing not only one of the top qualified women. She has been a top diplomat out there in Ethiopia. She is qualified and dignified. I feel that the country is the loser. She is the best candidate,” said Mrs Mugo, a key ally of the President’s.
“We have come a long way to get to where we are. Not only in Parliament but all areas and especially the Cabinet where top matters are discussed. We have lost an opportunity to have a seat in Cabinet. The women in Parliament are there because we have fought. This is negative on the side of gender.”
But according to the National Assembly’s Standing Orders, the House cannot consider a motion, once lost, until after six months, meaning a fresh nomination would have to wait until the end of the year.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said: “I don’t know what’s next because Parliament has spoken. They have a constitutional duty which they have done and now the rest lies with the President.”
“Definitely, he has to bring another nominee for the Secretary to the Cabinet because that motion cannot come back until after six months. For vetting, you can’t change the form because the form is the nominee,” said Mr Duale.
He called for sobriety in the discussions: “We should address this matter with a lot of soberness. Let other arms of government come together with the National Assembly and address it. The MPs did what they did under Article 95. They have a constitutional mandate and it is better not to use threats or abusive language,” he was speaking in Wajir.
From State House, the source said two MPs on the Administration and National Security Committee visited on Wednesday night and asked the President to open the State’s coffers “to soften the ground”.
But the President stood his ground and refused to negotiate. He is said to have viewed the MPs’demands as a test of his resolve in the graft war.
“By agreeing to be arm-twisted by the MPs the President was going to be undermining his crusade against corrupt practices; the move would have had serious implications on the anti-graft campaign,” a source familiar with the President’s thinking said.
The President was also aware that bribing MPs to endorse his Cabinet nominee could easily be used against him. “It is a price he is willing to pay,” the source added.
According to the source, who cannot be named because he is not the President’s spokesman, Dr Juma has had many run-ins with the security committee, including over the police recruitment. Some MPs, he said, had demanded 10 slots for recruits for them to support the government position on the issue which had run into problems.
“Clearly, for these MPs corruption and seeking favours from government officials has become a way of life and the President is determined to stop this trend,” the official said.
He warned that there will be “party ramifications” for those Jubilee MPs who were at the forefront in opposing the President’s nominee.
Those supporting Mr Duale’s proposal to extend the vetting period by 10 days were surprised to see that Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, who seconded the motion, turned and voted against it.
The National Assembly’s official record of the vote on Mr Duale’s motion showed that Mr Kamau voted with the Nays, a startling revelation that he had spoken for Dr Juma but then turned around and voted against her.
Yesterday, Mr Kamau told the Sunday Nation that he was not in the House at the time of voting as he had walked out in the three minutes that the Division Bell was rung and was locked out when the voting began.
He made a startling claim that another MP must have illicitly used his card to vote against Dr Juma while he was outside the chamber talking to Treasury CS Henry Rotich.
During the voting, each MP was required to remove their card from the console at each seat, with Speaker Justin Muturi giving them 60 seconds to log in afresh and 60 seconds to vote. The process is meant to ensure that only those present vote.
It would not have been possible for someone to log out, log back in and then vote while away from the chambers. Each MP is supplied with a unique four-digit PIN number akin to the ones issued with ATM cards as a way of fool-proofing the system.
Mr Duale backed Mr Kamau and said he left him in the company of Cabinet Secretaries Rotich and Anne Waiguru and wondered who among his colleagues voted using Mr Kamau’s card. Parliament’s records show that Jubilee MPs were the majority of those from both sides who voted against Mr Duale’s motion. At 163-55, the vote on the report was a foregone conclusion by the time the one by acclamation was called.
The vote touched off a series of attacks against the National Assembly.
Cord Leader Raila Odinga said that the National Assembly should have given Dr Juma a chance to defend herself instead of using their personal differences to punish her.
“Parliament did not exercise its duty effectively. They should have given her a chance to defend herself. We cannot work like this where personal differences ride above reason and competence,” said Mr Odinga.
He was speaking at his Opoda home during an informal meeting with governors Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and Homa Bay’s Cyprian Awiti. Samburu North MP Alois Lentoimaga, the vice-chairman of the Security Committee, told the Sunday Nation that the views of the team and the House have been trivialised and made to look like they were unfair to Dr Juma.
He said the committee had acted on the basis of its knowledge of her failures in the security docket. They were also angered by her letter to the clerks asking MPs and Senators to stop going to her office.
Asked whether MPs could seek meetings with the Interior PS to get money, Mr Lentoimaga said that was not possible and that it is part of the misinformation meant to make MPs look trivial and cheap.
“What money? What for? This is not a campaign year and, even then, how does she account for that money if she gives you?” he asked.
“Nobody goes to look for money. We go to tell her, ‘This place is burning.’ We go to tell her to fix problems and this or that is not working. These are practical issues. We’re not being malicious,” said Mr Lentoimaga.
“She cannot make a decision. She is a scholar. We also have to tell the President to deploy people who have a track record in security and who understand the terrain in the country well so that when we say there is a problem in Moyale or Baragoi, they understand what is happening,” said Mr Lentoimaga, a former District Commissioner.
Mr Lentoimaga said he is aware that Dr Juma had refused to act on requests by County Security Committees for orders to carry out operations in places such as Samburu to recover stolen livestock.
He said that as he sat at the vetting on the fourth floor of Continental House, four County Commissioners sent him text messages asking him to tell his fellow lawmakers that Dr Juma is an academician and not an administrator.