There has been something akin to musical chairs in the government handling of the all-important Privatization Commission. The pattern has persisted. Whenever the board chairman was appointed, no commissioners would be appointed.
Three months since the term of the last chairman expired, the National Treasury Secretary Ukur Yattani proceeded to appoint the Commission members last Friday and backdated their appointment to November 2021.
Section 5 (1) of the Privatization Act (No. 2 of 2005) provides that the Commission shall comprise of a chairman appointed by the President; the Attorney-General; the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury; Seven members, not being public officers, appointed by the Minister through a competitive process and approved by the National Assembly, by virtue of their expertise in such matters as will ensure that the Commission achieves its objectives; and the Executive Director.
Despite the recent appointment of six commissioners, the Board is unable to discharge its mandate effectively given that the tenure of its chairman, Paul Otuoma, expired on December 19, 2021. Even where a board member may act as temporary chairman of a meeting, the Act presumes that there is a substantive holder of the office of chairman.
Section 2 (1) of the Act provides that ‘Meetings of the Commission shall be held at such time and places as the Commission or the Chairman from time to time appoints.
(4) A meeting of the Commission shall be presided over by the Chairman; or in the absence of the Chairman, such member as the members present may elect for the purpose of that meeting.
This public agency is not of any value to consumers and taxpayers, who have not enjoyed the envisioned benefits that come with privatization: competition, innovation, better quality of services/goods – which greatly contribute to economic growth.
Privatization of State-owned agencies can also help bridge the budget deficit and cut down on uncontrolled borrowing.
Sadly, the Privatization Commission has successfully concluded only one transaction, the sale of some of government’s shares in Kenya Wine Agency Ltd (KWAL).
It is fair to say, therefore, that for more than a decade the Privatization Commission has nothing to show. The tenures of its directors are always left to expire, without proactive measure to fill up the vacancies, leaving the agency with a chronic quorum hitch.
It is time MPs review the continued existence of this agency which continues to gobble taxpayer cash without providing any value to taxpayers.
We hope that the National Treasury CS Ukur Yattani will ask President Kenyatta to immediately name the Privatization Commission Chairperson in under two weeks.
Should this fail, Cofek will petition Parliament with a view to requiring amendment of the parent legislation that appointment of the Commission chairman and those of the members will not go beyond 6 months by which time National Treasury CS will be liable for personal reprimand.