Blow to Ottichilo as court allows case challenging budget


Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo when he appeared before the Senate County Public Account and Investment Committee (CPAIC) over audit queries at Parliament, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo's efforts to stop a case in which two people are seeking to block implementation of the county's budget have failed.

Former County Secretary Francis Ominde and political activist Joseph Simekha moved to court to challenge the legality of Vihiga's 2021/2022 budget arguing it was not approved by the county executive committee as required by the law.

The petitioners also said the government had failed to explain how it intended to implement the budget.

Ottichilo filed an application seeking to stop the case, arguing it was not of public interest.

The governor also argued that High Court, where the case was filed, had no jurisdiction to handle the issues the petitioners raised in their case.

Ottichilo questioned the authenticity of the affidavit filed by Ominde and termed his evidence as "fatally and incurably defective".

Additionally, the county chief said the petition and notice of motion were founded on inadmissible evidence and that the second petitioner (Simekha) was a stranger to the petition.

However, Justice William Musyoka of the High Court in Kakamega, dismissed the governor's application on Thursday saying it failed to meet the threshold and allowed the case to go ahead.

The judge went ahead to set September 20 as the date the case will be heard.

"Overall, there is no merit in the objections set out in the notice 16 of preliminary objection, dated July 5, 2021 and I hereby disallow the said objections and dismiss them. There shall be no order as to the costs," read part of Justice Musyoka's ruling.

On July 5, a court issued orders stopping implementation of the budget that was approved by the assembly plunging the county into financial problems.

The judge observed the matters the governor raised in his application could be determined during the hearing of the case.

"Whether the contents are adequate for a constitutional remedy is not a matter that can be dealt with summarily, parties have to be heard," ruled the judge.

Justice Musyoka continued: "These are contested facts. The invitation to have a look at these documents, to assess their value one way or the other, takes the matter out of the purview of a preliminary objection."

Finance executive Alfred Indeche is the first respondent in the case while Ottichilo, county assembly speaker Hasna Mudeizi and county assembly clerk Ambaka Kilinga are the second, third and fourth respondents respectively.

The Controller of Budget and Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi are among those listed as interested parties.

The petitioners argued that the county executive committee did not discuss or approve the budget estimates as required, especially by Section 129 (1) of the Public Finance Management Act.

They argued their petition sought to protect and enforce the principles of public finance and executive authority of the county.

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