Who Will Judge the Judges? Kenya’s Judiciary Taken To Task

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September 21, 2015

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Photo credit: Ford-Foundation/Flickr

Photo credit: Ford-Foundation/Flickr

Former Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Gladys Boss Shollei’s name continues to be dragged through the graft mud as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) releases a daming report that names her in the irregular use of public funds.

Shollei, along with three other senior Finance, ICT and supply chain management heads have been identified as being largely responsible for the loss of significant funds from the Judicial Service Commission, ranging in the hundreds of millions.

We’ll give you a few minutes to process and visualize those nine figure sums: hundreds of millions.

The report was proceeded by the now famous Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigation that saw many former judicial officials caught in the corruption dragnet.

Shollei specifically saw her signature land her in hot soup after questionable real estate transaction involving the 2011 acquisition of the Mayfair court which then remained unused in spite of Kshs.7.3 million being shelled out for rent.

Shollei’s colleague, Mr. Omollo, is similarly implicated in irregular advance payments to contractors in his capacity as director of Finance.

The mind-boggling amounts of Kshs.126.7 million, Kshs.29.9 million and Kshs.26.5 million were said to be paid outside of regulations governing the office, and some without basic documentation such as contracts.

If you’re wondering how the Judiciary- keepers of the law- was operating in direct conflict of the law, we assure you we are wondering too.

Glaring incidences of corruption and misappropriation of funds aside, the current state of the Judiciary remains in question.

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has recently come under fire for “failing to assert himself” and stamp out such examples of behaviours that bleeds millions upon millions of your taxes away from their rightful uses.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has pointed the finger squarely at Mutunga for “being unable to control his officials” who continue to flaunt their misdeeds and perpetuate a culture of impunity with a seeming lack of consequences.

Naturally, the report cites the 2013 disagreements between former Chief Registrar Shollei and the Judicial Service Commission that eventually saw Shollei get the boot.

While the report did not level corruption accusations against Mutunga personally, the conclusion was that the Chief Justice should have led the Judiciary into more ethical operations, as opposed to giving “lyrical” speeches promising change that never came.

Phot credit: Mike Licht/Flickr

Phot credit: Mike Licht/Flickr

The report is stunningly ill-timed: internal conflicts at the Judiciary are presently high, motivated by the greatest lure- power.

At present many senior judges are staring down the barrel of retirement, an unpleasant concept if you were unprepared to relinquish your powerful seat as one of the nation’s top decision-makers.

At the same time, the potential to rise to these positions that may soon may vacant has doubtless led to power scrambles that the average citizen may not be privy to, but that will cause their own damage in the Judiciary all the same.

The one person unaffected by the concept of retirement? One Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

While Mutunga has expressed a desire to see the Judiciary reforms he initiated through to the end, he has also shown a progressive attitude towards an early retirement.

Chief of Staff Duncan Okello has stated, on Mutunga’s behalf, that in spite of the Chief Justice being scheduled to retire in June 2017 when he turns 70, Mutunga’s focus is on the wellbeing of the country. As such, Mutunga has no problem with reiring early to allow his successor, whoever that may be, to acquaint themselves with the Judiciary before the next General Election.

Given the historically difficult time African leaders have letting go of power- our neighbour President Mugabe being a prime example- we’d go so far as saying Mutunga’s offer a few months early retirement is almost downright noble.

Even with that in mind, however, it is clear the Judiciary is in trouble. If those tasked to protect and enforce the law cannot obey it, what hope do the rest of us have?

Have a law-abiding week, won’t you?


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