Collective Cabinet Responsibility Key to Implementation of Agenda Four

One of the most fundamental questions that the cabinet and by extension, the entire country is grappling with is whether Parliamentary Watchdog Committees are overstepping their mandate through their constant erection of roadblocks on the path to implementation of government policy.

The Prime Minister thinks that an overbearing parliamentary watchdog is an impediment to the proper functioning of the cabinet, so do a host of other cabinet Ministers. However, the speaker and members of parliament think otherwise.

They opine that it is rather the disjointed cabinet and the political intrigues surrounding it coupled with its expediency and ineptitude that has naturally inspired the parliamentary Watchdogs to fill the resultant void.

I entirely agree with the speaker of the national assembly. Suffice to say that Cabinet Ministers have totally forgotten the import of collective responsibility as a cabinet. In fact, cabinet has become the biggest stumbling block to government`s the government`s reform agenda. The term collective cabinet responsibility is akin to hybrid seeds planted in unhealthy soils to the majority of cabinet ministers.

Collective ministerial responsibility entails three principles: the confidence rule, cabinet solidarity, and cabinet confidentiality. These principles help ensure that the cabinet pursues a policy consistent with the priorities of the country.

In our Coalition Government, the president and the PM form the Cabinet by appointing members of Parliament as ministers to direct government ministries. The president, the PM and cabinet ministers thus propose laws that become the basis for public policy.

The confidence rule is obvious. Without the cabinet having confidence in each other, then the import of having a cabinet ceases. Let me therefore dwell in detail on the remaining two principles. Perhaps the most fundamental pillar of collective ministerial responsibility is cabinet solidarity.

Here the cabinet ensures a unified stance in everything it pursues. Granted, cabinet ministers can disagree but only in the privacy of the Cabinet. However, once a decision is made, they must loyally support and defend the government’s position or resign.

Moreover, individual cabinet ministers must not announce new policy or changes in policy without the Cabinet’s approval. They must carry out cabinet-approved policies with respect to their own ministries, whether or not they agree with such policies. Finally, they are expected to vote with the government always.

The President and the Prime Minister must always therefore enforce cabinet solidarity. In the event that dissenting voices emerge from the cabinet then the President in consultation with the PM, he can ask ministers to resign. In case they refuse to resign then the president can sack them.

The the other important aspect of the cabinet that is part and parcel of collective cabinet responsibility is confidentiality. Ministers swear an oath to protect cabinet secrecy. Documents used to support cabinet decision-making are highly confidential, and any public servant who discloses cabinet secrets can be imprisoned.

However, of late, things have gone haywire. Non adherence to the policy of collective responsibility has seriously undermined the working of the cabinet. Very little or none of cabinet solidarity, confidence and confidentiality have been seen. Cabinet secrets and documents have increasingly found their way to the public domain. Obviously, some disgruntled elements within the cabinet are behind this leakage.

The division in the cabinet has reached parliament with every minister with political clout manipulating legislation for his or her own ulterior motives. Take the stand off between the PM and his erstwhile ally William Ruto, the Minister for Agriculture; there differences have spiraled into parliament with a section of the latter`s supporters threatening to move a censure motion to settle political scores with the former over the Mau eviction saga.

This country decries a weak cabinet. This is because a fragile cabinet can never deliver the crucial agenda four reforms that the country urgently requires. It is time that the cabinet owned up to its mistakes and agrees to give this country a new beginning. For in the words of Cardinal de Retz (1617-1679), “The man who can own up to his error is greater than he who merely knows how to avoid making it.”

Tome Francis
Bumula Constituency

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