|Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Boss Shollei. (Photo:Tabitha Otwori/Standard)|
By Moses Njagih
Nairobi, Kenya: Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei Wednesday lifted the lid on her stormy fall-out with three members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) she suspects to be behind her woes.
Shollei admitted to strained relations with the outspoken member of the commission, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Judge Mohammed Warsame and Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde.
Appearing before a parliamentary committee in Nairobi Wednesday, Shollei candidly revealed the challenges she has had dealing with the three JSC members, citing instances of interference in her work by the commissioners.
The Chief Registrar told the National Assembly’s Legal Affairs Committee that she had reported the poor working Willy Mutunga.
She accused Abdullahi of interfering with the Judiciary’s search for an office block in Mombasa to host the Court of Appeal, intimating that the lawyer wanted to advance his interests and dictate the space that the institution should rent.
“When I told him of the house we wanted to rent, and which was proposed to us by the LSK Mombasa, he told me wachana na hiyo nyumba, nitakutafutia ingine (forget about that building, I will show you another one),” Shollei told MPs.
Shollei said that she has had difficulties dealing with the lawyer at the official level for months, and had reported the matter to CJ Mutunga.
“It could be for this Mombasa house (that she is being targeted for removal from office). Many people know of this incident,” she said.
Abdullahi represents the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) in the JSC.
She accused Warsame, an Appellate judge, of seeking employment favours from her, claiming that the Judge had complained that since she assumed the position she had not given vacancies to them as was the case before.
“Judge Warsame was always taunting me for not employing his people in the Judiciary. He once told me wewe kutoka uingie hatujawahi kula matunda ya uhuru kutoka kwako (We have never enjoyed the fruits since you assumed office).”
She added: “He said that the previous Registrar used to give him 30 slots for employment but I had refused to do the same.”
The Chief Registrar accused Ominde, who is one of the two members representing the Judges and Magistrates in the commission, of having a vendetta against her since her appointment to the position.
She said that the magistrate could even issue directives to her as an individual, instead of channeling the same through JSC.
“I even had to write to the Chief Justice asking him to explain to her my role vis-à-vis hers. Commissioner Ominde has had problems with me from the first day,” she explained.
A composed Shollei, who has been sent on a 15-day leave to allow the commission to investigate allegations against her, painfully relayed the humiliation that she had suffered with the JSC trying her in public.
“I have been stripped naked in public, my reputation has been soiled. I am very keen to defend my reputation. I would rather lose my job but defend my reputation that I have worked so hard to build over the years,” she said
She added: “I am an honest person and I have nothing to lose, after all they have destroyed me. They have tried me in public I may as well respond in public…I have never been a coward and I will not be now!”
On complaints that she was militant and authoritarian in her work, Shollei was categorical:
“I have no apology to make to those who misconstrue my conduct as militant. I am a no-nonsense manager, respectful but I entertain no nonsense and that is what has taken me this far,” she said
She added: “Even in my house my children know me as a no-nonsense mother…if it was a man, that would have been viewed as being tough, but because I am a woman, I am viewed as a dictator and militant.”
Shollei said that to date she has not been informed by the Commission what the accusations against her relate to and was only relying on what is being propagated through the media.
She said that she had only received a letter from the Chief Justice, in his capacity as the chairman of the JSC Wednesday, urging her to proceed on leave.
This, she said, was different from the compulsory leave that the commission had initially threatened her with.
Shollei said that the letter from the CJ was not explicit on what complaints she was fighting, as it only stated that it was over a “corpus of allegations”.
Shollei, who was accompanied by the legal officer in her office and a section of her family, dismissed her being sent on leave terming it as having no basis in law.
She faulted the process being undertaken by the JSC, accusing the commission of acting as her accuser, investigator, prosecutor and the judge.
“Let them be the judge, but not the investigator or the others,” she said, arguing that she was accountable to many other bodies, including the Auditor General, controller of budget and the procurement board.
Allegations not true
She said that it should be these bodies undertaking investigations, as opposed to the JSC doing it.
She told the committee chaired by MP Samuel Chepkonga that the JSC had approved the acquisition of two houses in Upper Hill, for which she is being accused of impropriety.
She further said that she had never changed any policy on purchase of vehicles, dismissing claims that she had engaged personal interests by acquiring vehicles from General Motors, where her relative is a manager, saying the Judiciary has no dealings with the motor company.
She also denied claims of favouritism in hiring staff at the Judiciary, saying that she has never hired anyone out of those commissioned by the JSC.
“I am only a professional trying to do my job and I have nothing to hide,” she said.
The Chief Registrar said that she had never been given a chance to respond to any query by the JSC, saying that her matter was deliberated upon by the JSC during a retreat in Mombasa allegedly under agenda item “Any Other Business”.
Chepkonga said that the JSC, which was to appear before the committee today, had asked to be given more time. He cautioned the commission that it would be in their interest to appear.
“We have huge dossiers of serious and damaging allegations made against some of the commissioners. It is in their interests that they appear,” said Chepkonga.