National Youth Service (NYS) graduates will now be given the first priority to join the military and other disciplined forces during recruitment exercises, following the passage of the 2018 NYS Bill by the National Assembly on Thursday.
The approval came before the House went on a long Christmas recess that will end in February next year.
However, this will depend on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the bill into law once it is presented to him.
If he approves it, NYS graduates will also be absorbed into Regular Police, Administration Police and Kenya Coast Guard units.
Besides enhancing direct entry into the disciplined services, the bill also seeks to stem wanton theft and misuse of public funds that have dogged the NYS for a long time.
It will also see the creation of a 12-member council that will directly supervise the NYS director-general, as well as provide a linkage between the service and the Big Four agenda and Vision 2030, especially on Sustainable Development Goals.
The proposed council will also be in charge of policy formulation. Currently, the principal secretary in the ministry oversees the operations of the NYS boss.
Majority Leader Aden Duale said the bill would strengthen NYS operations and its management structure through reforms in the procurement and finance departments.
The reforms include fixing weaknesses identified in its structure, which hinder achievement of the agency’s mandate. Loopholes in governance, monitoring and other roles will be addressed.
“Passage of this bill will clear the mess young people go through at NYS. Those who looted from NYS coffers must be held accountable and must return all the money or property they took,” Mr Duale said.
During the 2014/15 financial year, the NYS was allocated Sh26 billion, an exponential rise from Sh4 billion allocated in the previous financial year.
The sudden increase in budget was faulted by Mr Duale as it opened the doors to rampant looting.
“I remember asking the Executive what was going on, but little did we know that some beautiful, crafty people … were supplying hot air to NYS. The NYS recruits would climb steep hills but when they came back, there was no bread for them to eat because their money had been looted.”
A number of people have been charged in court over the theft of more than Sh460 million from the agency.
They include the Ngirita family, former Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lillian Mbogo Omollo and former NYS boss Richard Ndubai.
Bura MP Ali Wario said a few people have previously conspired to loot NYS, a loophole that has greatly affected its image. “Who is the thief? Certainly not our young recruits! The courts must tell us who the thieves are,” Mr Wario said.
Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga added: “It will sort out how NYS works and will satisfy the needs of the youth.”
Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said passage of the bill would help create a strong institution with clear internal control structures, among them an auditor to track how public funds are used.
“We are establishing a council which has never been in existence before to make a stronger NYS that will deliver on its mandate, as well as ensure an improved governance structure on finances,” Prof Kobia said.
She added that the council would promote segregation of duties and would take charge of supervision from the PS, as the ministry deals with general formulation of policies.
“Corruption has been rampant at the [agency] because only the principal secretary oversights the DG. That is why whenever there is a scandal, the principal secretary and the director-general have always been suspended. In the new structure, the ministry will have no role. The council will do the job,” Prof Kobia said.
The council will consist of a non-executive chairperson appointed by the President, the principal secretary of the Service, principal secretaries in charge of the Treasury and the Interior ministry, the Attorney-General, the Chief of Kenya Defence Forces, and leaders from other top organs.