The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has resolved to investigate allegations of corruption and other malpractices in the recruitment processes at the East African Community (EAC) secretariat.
The decision, which also puts to halt ongoing recruitment, was reached at, last week, as the Assembly concluded its latest sitting in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
It followed passing of a motion “of public importance” moved by MP AbuBakr Ogle (Kenya) seeking suspension of the ongoing recruitment process at the Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, pending an audit.
In an interview with The New Times, Ogle said a joint audit by the Council of Ministers, in conjunction with a relevant committee of the Assembly, is in order.
“This is a result of widespread complaints by the citizens of East Africa regarding the transparency of the process. There are claims of impropriety and underhand dealings in short-listing and hiring. These claims must be verified before it can be allowed to continue,” Ogle said.
“We should not allow or entertain anything that will undermine the integrity of the process. The recruitment process has been on hold for the last eight years pending the completion of an institutional framework and it only begun very recently – in the first quarter of this year – and for that process to begin on such contentious note, is tragic, to say the least.”
According to the lawmaker, after the Assembly passed the motion, the next move is for the Speaker to communicate the subsequent resolution to the Council of Ministers with a view to reporting back to the Assembly at its next sitting in Nairobi, Kenya, next month.
Among some of the claims, the lawmaker said, is the issue of equity in partner states’ representation in the hiring process.
“There were also concerns about ‘very qualified candidates’ who were left out in short-listing.”
Any department in the Community dealing with or handling recruitment will be target for investigation, especially the bloc’s human resource department.
Ogle could not say the likely recommendations in case some individuals are found to have been recruited fraudulently following such an inquest, but was emphatic that “any corruptible practices must be penalised accordingly.”
The Arusha-based EAC Secretariat is the executive organ of the Community that ensures that regulations and directives adopted by the Council of Ministers – the central decision-making and governing organ of the EAC – are properly implemented, and provides the Council with strategic recommendations.
About five months ago, the Secretariat appealed to partner states to agree on lifting a freeze on the recruitment of new staff with the looming mandatory retirement of some 52 professionals between July and November, next year.
The concern was that mass exit of staff would adversely affect operations if vacant posts are not filled promptly.
Before then, a four-day strategic meeting of permanent secretaries from EAC affairs ministries in Moshi, Tanzania, was informed that the Secretariat should be allowed to commence the recruitment process to fill vacant positions.
Furthermore, the Secretariat was tasked to develop a smooth transition plan to make sure EAC operations are not adversely affected by the mass exit.
But with the newly-passed EALA resolution, the Secretariat will have to halt the recruitment process pending investigations.
The freeze on the recruitment affects the general staff – not lawmakers – working in EALA, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the principal judicial organ of the Community, as well as other institutions.
However, Richard Owora Othieno, the EAC head of corporate communications and public affairs, said allegations of corruption in the Secretariat’s recruitment process are baseless since an independent firm is in charge.
“The Secretariat has contracted the services of an independent and professional human resource recruitment firm, Deloitte and Touche of Dar-es-Salaam, to handle its recruitment, so the issue of corruption does not arise,” Othieno told The New Times.
According to information on the EAC official website, more than 400 people work for various EAC organs and institutions in five partner states.
It says that while recruiting, the EAC seeks to secure the highest standards of efficiency, technical competence, professionalism and integrity and any national from a partner state, is eligible to apply for jobs.
Equal representation and non-discrimination are said to be among the key standards followed in recruitment of staff of the Community.
Normally done on a quota system, the recruitment process is supposed to be reflective of equal representation of gender and the partner states. People working for the EAC (organs and institutions) are supposed to be entitled to equal treatment irrespective of political inclination, gender, colour of skin, religion, culture, education, social status, ethnic affiliation or nationality.
Among other available employment opportunities, the EAC frequently engages experts under individual contracts to work on short-term projects as an individual consultant or a consortium.