SKEWED HIRING

Uproar as Big Five tribes dominate civil service

Big Five communities flood almost all state agencies' jobs, locking out small tribes

In Summary
  • Section 7 (2) of the NCI Act, 2008 provides that no public establishment shall have more than one third of its staff from the same ethnic community.
  • The big-five tribes; Kikuyus, Kalenjins, Luhyas, Luos and Kambas continue to elbow other tribes even in new recruitments made after 2010 when the Act was in force.
NCIC CEO Hassan Mohammed during a press briefing in Nairobi on May 21,2019.
NCIC CEO Hassan Mohammed during a press briefing in Nairobi on May 21,2019.
Image: ENOS TECHE

The scale of ethnic imbalance in the public service has been laid bare by a parliamentary inquiry. It gives a fresh headache to President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration to correct the historical mess.

An ethnic audit of some of the country’s high profile and financially stable parastatals shows that the big five communities are the most dominant and are the decision-makers.

These tribes are Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Kamba, Luo and Luhya.

The audit comes at a time when Kenya is grappling with cohesion and inclusivity issues that prompted the creation of the Building Bridges Initiative.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the National Hospital Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund have been turned into an exclusive club of three tribes.

NHIF and NSSF are multi-billion-shilling state agencies and the envy of job seekers.

MPs questioned the unchecked dominance of Kikuyus, Kambas and Kalenjins in the two funds when some communities have no representation.

Ethnic imbalance

MPs questioned the unchecked dominance of Kikuyus, Kambas and Kalenjins in the two funds when some communities have no representation.

Cumulatively, the three account for more than half of the staff in both institutions.

Cumulatively, the three account for more than half of the staff in both institutions.

At NHIF where the total workforce is 1,927, the employees from the three communities add up to 1,007 leaving a paltry 920 positions to the rest of Kenyans.

 

Documents submitted by NHIF acting CEO Nicodemus Odongo before the Maina Kamanda-led committee show that Kalenjins are the majority at 393 followed closely by Kikuyus at 373. The Kambas are third with 241 employees.

However, at senior management level where key decisions are made, the Kikuyu are dominant at 32 per cent.

The Luo and Kamba have four members each in the 31-member team, translating to 13 per cent each.

The dominance is replicated at NSSF where the same three communities hold 635 out of 1,307 positions in the organisation.

From the documents, the Kamba are the most dominant with 224 workers followed by the Kalenjin with 220 and the Kikuyu 191.

Although the Luo are outnumbered at NSSF, they control the top management at six out of the 14 managers.

However, the ethnic arrangement sharply changes at the NSSF Board of Trustees where out of the nine positions, Kikuyus have three with six other tribes represented by a member each.

The skewed hiring – according to the lawmakers – locks out other communities from state jobs and goes against constitutional provisions.

The National Assembly’s Cohesion and Equal Opportunity committee has been carrying out an ethnic audit of state agencies and institutions to ensure they comply with the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008 on inclusivity.

Section 7 (2) of the NCIC Act, 2008 provides that no public establishment shall have more than one-third of its staff from the same ethnic community.

Inclusivity is one of the nine-point agenda in the Building Bridges Initiative being spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief  Raila Odinga.

But emerging from submissions before the committee, the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya, Luo and Kamba communities continue to elbow other tribes even in new recruitments made after 2010 when the Act was in force.

Some of the key institutions which Parliament has flagged over suspicious tribal hiring include the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Kenya National Examinations Council and the Kenya National Audit Office.

Kamanda (nominated) at one time recommended that the imbalance should be rectified even if it means sacking staff from the over-represented communities.

“If you think you have done a mistake, it has to be corrected. Even if you have to sack to comply you have to do it,” Kamanda said when the committee met Auditor General Edward Ouko’s officers last month.

If you think you have done a mistake, it has to be corrected. Even if you have to sack to comply you have to do it
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda

Ouko’s office was on the spotlight after it emerged that there was systematic flooding of the audit office with members of the Luo community.

Immediately after 2010, the number of Luos rose to 325 overtaking other communities. They represent 35.48 per cent of the 916-member workforce.

Similarly, skewed staffing was at the Kenya Revenue Authority where Kikuyus have a firm grip on the country’s tax collection, holding almost half of senior executive positions.

KRA has 133 senior management positions and 50 are held by Kikuyus, translating to 37.59 per cent.

At Knec, Kambas enjoy a slim numerical strength in the 414-member workforce.

Kambas are 91 followed closely by Kikuyus at 90 and Luhya (71).

 The tribal favouritism rife in numerous agencies has been blamed for what has been termed ‘targeted arrests’ where investigators have ended up locking up officials from one community in case of fraud involving top officers.

Such arrests happened last year when DCI detectives seized KPC managing director Joe Sang and other top managers over Sh1 billion scandal. The majority of those arrested were from Rift Valley.

But National Cohesion and Integration Commission CEO Hassan Mohammed said the flooding of people from one tribe in a public institution was a serious offence.

“Any recruitment to fill positions in public offices must have the face of Kenya. If you head an institution, you must ensure that those working there represent the various regions of the country as much as possible,” he told the Star.

Mohammed recalled that the Commission was at one time forced to ask the Public Service Commission to cancel recruitment at a parastatal when it emerged that all shortlisted candidates were from one region.

“They argued that recruitment was based on merit but we told them that inclusivity and other factors should also have been considered,” he said.

He warned against recruitment on the basis of meritocracy alone, saying there are other factors that should also determine who gets hired.