Activist Okiya Omtatah has moved to court to overturn the appointment of Dr Peter Kamunyo as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) CEO on grounds that the recruitment process was opaque and shambolic.
In Court papers filed on April 9, Omtatah argues that the board flouted recruitment laws and handed the CS for health imaginary powers to handpick one candidate.
“The Board abandoned a responsive recruitment process which commenced in the July 2019, and resulted in names of the top three successful candidates being presented to the Cabinet Secretary for appointment, although this was not necessary because the CS’s powers to appoint the CEO were extinguished vide amendments made to the NHIF Act by the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No. 18 of 2014,” argues Omtatah.
The board announced Kamunyo as the CEO last week, after restarting recruitment process in February alleging that they had failed to get a suitable candidate in the first recruitment exercise.
Omtatah says that the Board recanted a responsive process to a non-responsive process, that saw Dr Kamunyo hand picked.
“Without cancelling the initial recruitment process, which was responsive, the Board re-advertised the position on 24th February 2020 and changed some of eligibility requirements by deleting the expression “any other relevant Business field” and replacing it with the word “medicine”. The Board then abandoned the second recruitment process and proceeded to handpick and appoint– Dr. Peter Kamunyo Gathege – as the new CEO for the NHIF,” says Omtatah.
He says that on March 5 he wrote to NHIF Board seeking clarification on the recruitment process, a letter that was ignored.
According to Omtatah, in the first exercise, the board ignored the candidate who emerged first and appointed a total stranger to the position, who had not applied for the position.
“The petitioner seeks orders quashing the purported appointment of Dr. Peter Kamunyo Gathege as the new CEO for the NHIF, and in his place to be appointed the person who emerged top in the first recruitment process,” he adds.
In February, Ms. Hannah Muriithi, the Chairperson of the Board and Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told the Parliamentary Health Committee that the recruitment process which commenced with advertising the vacancy in July 2019 was responsive, and that the Board had forwarded names of three successful candidates to the outgoing Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) for appointment of a substantive NHIF boss, and that the Board was awaiting the appointment of the new substantive CS who was going to appoint the CEO from those names.
However, under Section 10(1) of the NHIF Act, 1998, the CEO of the NHIF is appointed by the Board with no reference to the Health CS.
The NHIF Act was amended by the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No. 18 of 2014 to remove the power of the Health Minister to appoint the CEO.
The amended Act says that “there shall be a chief executive officer of the Board who shall be recruited competitively by the Board on such terms and conditions as the Board may, with the advice of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission determine.”