Members of the Parliament from the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and the Committee on Administration and Internal Security, on Monday, February 12, commenced public hearings on the National Government Administration Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
The Amendment Bill intends to make changes to four acts, including: the Assumption of the Office of the President Act, 2012; National Security Council Act, 2012; Office of the Attorney General Act, 2012; and the National Government Coordination Act, 2013.
Proposed by Leader of the Majority Kimani Ichung’wah, the bill seeks to, among others, give the President-elect more power and representation in the Assumption of the Office of the President Committee.
If passed into law, the bill will allow the National Security Advisor, a position currently held by Monica Juma, to sit in the power transfer committee which is mandated to oversee the transition of power process.
According to the bill, the NSA will sit in the committee as the Secretary to the National Security Council.
In addition, the Preseident-elect will see his representation in the committee increased from the current three to six members.
Other proposed changes through the bill include one seeking to remove the Attorney General as the sole custodian of the Public Seal which is the symbol used to show that government documents are real and official.
What’s more, the amendment by Ichung’wah will seek to provide for the establishment of the Head of Public Service and the Offices of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS).
On Monday, several government officials and representatives of different groups appeared in parliament to present their submissions on the proposed amendments.
Among those who appeared before the Joint Sitting co-chaired by MPs George Murugara (Tharaka) and Gabriel Tongoyo (Kajiado West) were the Principal Secretary (PS), Ministry of Interior and National Administration, Dr. Raymond Omollo, the Director- General of the National Intelligence Service, Mr. Noordin Haji and the Secretary to the Cabinet Ms. Mercy Wanjau.
Govt officials give views on the proposed changes in parliament
While making his submission on the proposed inclusion of the National Security Advisor (NSA) in the Committee dealing with the Assumption of the Office of the President, PS Omollo proposed that the NSA be the Secretary to the Council and not the Committee.
On her part, Secretary to the Cabinet Mercy Wanjau drummed up support for the proposal seeking to delete section 28 of the Office of the Attorney General Act, 2012 that provides for the Attorney General (AG) to have custody of the Public Seal of the Republic of Kenya.
She cited practices in other countries including Uganda, Tanzania and Seychelles where the President is the sole custodian of the Public Seal.
Ruto to have custody of Public seal
According to her, the head of state is the custodian of the seal in those countries, but can appoint a person holding service, to act as the custodian, while giving directions as to the manner it will be kept and used.
When asked about the reasons behind the proposed change of custody, and if there is a policy supporting that move, Wanjau said that Kenya is a Presidential System, where the President is the holder of the seal as a symbol of statehood.
She, however, emphasized that even with the proposed change effected, the AG would remain a user of the seal and that there would be a broad guideline on its use.
Currently, the custody of the seal of the Government of Kenya, is with the Attorney General.
Ms. Wanjau also proposed an enactment of the Public Seal Act, to pave way for the development of regulations governing the description, design, use, custody, authentication, restriction and display thereof.
On their part, representatives from the Salaries and Renumeration Commission (SRC) proposed the establishment of the office of the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS).
They also called for the inclusion of a provision outlining the maximum compliment for the position of the CAS, and a clear description of the job responsibilities.
This, according to the representatives, would help SRC determine the cumulative remuneration and benefits for the CASs.
The proposals have, however, been met with opposition from some quarters.
Raila vows to oppose Ruto’s bill in parliament
On Monday, Azimio Leader Raila Odinga raised concerns over the creation of the position of the NSA, noting that the amendment is unconstitutional and untenable.
Raila in a statement sent to newsrooms said the new office of National Security Advisor does not fit into the structure of Kenya’s constitution and its creation is therefore an attempt to create a new security organ outside the Constitution.
As such, Raila asked the ruling coalition to drop the bill and vowed to fight it in parliament.
“Kenya Kwanza must drop this interference with the constitutional architecture with regard to our national security,” Raila said in his statement.
“In the light of the attempts elsewhere to establish a dictatorship in Kenya, Azimio will fight this latest maneuver to take total control of the national security machinery.”