Four members of the Kilifi County Public Service Board are fighting to keep their jobs after an employee petitioned the local County Assembly to remove them from office.
Ms Zena Mohamed, a senior officer in the county department of environment, wants the board members fired for allegedly violating her constitutional rights during the recruitment of the County Director of Environment.
Ms Zena, who was the acting director prior to the commencement of the recruitment process, is challenging the appointment of Mr Jimmy Kahindi Yaa to the position at a time when the Employment and Labour Court had placed a permanent injunction on the recruitment process.
On Friday, the four board members, led by Chairperson Rose Ngowa, put up a spirited defence before the County Assembly’s Committee on Devolution, Public Service and Disaster Management, which took them to task over the recruitment process.
Through lawyer Njoroge Mwangi, the board explained that it re-advertised the position after the court placed an injunction on the first process and that it was just a coincidence that the candidate who had been recruited in the first process emerged the winner in the second.
Mwangi explained that Ms Zena had petitioned the Public Service Commission, which upheld the board’s position, but she sought the intervention of the Employment and Labour Court, which quashed the board’s decision and placed a permanent injunction on the process.
He said in the second process, Zena applied for both the positions of director and assistant director and that since she did not qualify for the former as she did not have a master’s degree, she was shortlisted for the later, but did not appear for the interview.
Members of the committee however challenged the lawyer to explain why the requirement of a master’s degree was included as an added advantage in the first advertisement but made mandatory in the second, saying this could have been made deliberately to lock Zena out.
They challenged him to explain why the board did not appeal against the court judgment but instead re-started the process in total disregard of the injunction against its earlier decision.
They wanted to understand why the same person whose appointment had been quashed by the Employment and Labour Court was subsequently appointed to the position in the second process that was done without the board appealing against the injunction.
Mwangi explained that the board found it wise to commence a fresh process instead of taking the “long and expensive route of taking the matter to the Court of Appeal.”
“I actually filed a notice of appeal but the board in its wisdom decided not to follow that route as it was long and expensive. We therefore opted to start a fresh process,” he said, adding that the judgment had not barred Mr Yaa from being recruited.
Deputy Leader of Majority Martha Koki (Mariakani) put the board chairperson to task over the board’s failure to submit annual reports to the County Assembly as required under the County Governments Act 2012.
Ms Ngowa explained that the board faced serious budgetary challenges since its budget was always slashed by the executive, noting that that made it difficult for it to print the reports and submit them to the assembly.
She also wondered why only four of the board members were being targeted even though the decision was collectively made by six board members.
Two of the board members left the board and are currently serving as County Executive Committee Member and Chief Officer respectively.
“When we were doing the recruitment, we were six board members and a secretary. Now, the petition is seeking for the removal of four members while the people concerned were six. For me, I feel that there is witch-hunt in the whole thing,” she submitted.
Committee Chairman Samson Zia Kahindi said the committee would make a decision after interviewing all interested parties and assured the residents of Kilifi that the committee would arrive at a fair verdict.