Tussle over the appointment of Tabitha Mutemi to Media Council of Kenya Board

Tabitha Mutemi is the IEBC Corporate Communications Manager

Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo

In 2019, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru appointed IEBC Corporate Communications Manager Tabitha Mutemi alongside other journalists to serve as Board Members of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

Tabitha's appointment has, however, had her engaged in a scuffle with the MCK Secretariat, because it did not adhere to a directive by the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service in the office of the President barring all state officials and public servants from holding any other office in state parastatals.

The letter signed by Joseph Kinyua cautioned all Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries against the appointment of public officers to boards of State Corporations.

This was the case in Ms. Mutemi’s appointment as she remains an employee of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)

The Ministry of ICT through Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng sought an advisory opinion from the Office of the Attorney General regarding the appointment of public officers to the Media Council Board, and in response, the AG’s office issued the same communication as provided by Kinyua in his 2016 letter, further quoting the IEBC Act of 2100 which advices against the same.

Given the analysis and findings above, we advise that holding two public offices is contrary to section 16 of the IEBC Act 2011 as read together with section 2(1) of the Fourth Schedule to the IEBC Act 2011.

Further holding of two public offices contravenes the State Policy as contained in the Circular number OPCAB.9/IA dated 18h of October 2019, which is alluded to in Our letter. Accordingly, Ms. Tabitha Mutemi should not hold the position of an independent Board member of the Media Council of Kenya while she is still in gainful employment under IEBC,” said the AG in response to PS Ochieng’s letter.

The Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo wrote to the council’s Chairman Maina Muiruri and notified him that the secretariat would no longer recognize Mutemi as a board member.

The secretariat will no longer recognize Ms. Mutemi as a board member of the Media Council of Kenya with immediate effect,” read part of the letter by David Omwoyo.

Tabitha Mutemi wrote to the Secretariat through her lawyers Kilonzo and Company Advocates arguing that they have no power to remove their client from office.

Her lawyers mentioned that she was appointed by CS Mucheru via a Gazette notice who is the only one that has the authority to revoke her appointment.

You have no jurisdiction to remove or purport not to recognize a member appointed by the Cabinet Secretary in a gazette notice…The Cabinet Secretary as the appointing authority is the only person who can cause the removal from office of Ms. Mutemi," reads a demand letter by Kilonzo and Company advocates to the MCK.

MCK secretariat through its lawyers Marende and Nyaundi Advocates responded noting that Ms. Mutemi being a full-time employee at IEBC cannot sit on another board of a state corporation as it amounts to double gainful employment, contrary to the directive from the office of the president.

The matter could be headed to court.

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