On August 8 Kenya voted in its second set of elections since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010 that ushered in devolved system of governance. The election provided an opportunity for the change of guards of its kind at the county level. The peaceful handover of power from one governor to another sets a good precedence at the counties and is laudable.
However, despite the smooth transition, the just sworn in Governor and team have begun the process of county management on a wrong footing. The media has publicly reported that some have issued threats to sack all the county officials who either didn’t campaign for them or those who supported their political opponents in the August 2017 polls. It has also been reported that some have actually gone ahead and issued letters terminating county employees’ services.
According to the Employment Act (2007), an employee’s political opinion or affiliation does not constitute fair reasons for dismissal or for the imposition of a disciplinary penalty (section 46g). It’s therefore imperative for the governor to understand that their actions to sack or threaten to sack county employees premised on political differences is both an infringement on county employees’ rights and a violation of the law. Their actions are also likely to attract court battles. The County Government Act (2012) establishes the County Public Service (CPS) with very clear objectives. Section 55d and section 59a, b & c provides for the objectives, functions and powers of the CPS to include; establishment and abolition of offices, appointment of persons to hold or act in those offices, confirming appointments and exercising disciplinary control over and removal of persons holding or acting in those offices. It’s therefore not within the powers of a governor to sack county employees save for the County Executive Committee members as expressed in section 31 of the same Act.
Kenya Human Rights Commission notes that sacking of County employees in order to settle political scores is a dangerous precedence being set by the county chiefs in Wajir and must be condemned in the strongest term possible. It’s a manifestation of entrenched impunity where the Governor can usurp powers to fire County professionals whether on permanent or contract terms by disregarding the law. The County public service boards must be respected and sacking of any County employee must be conducted within the precincts of the law.