MPs accuse CJ Mutunga of poor leadership, recommend probe on JSC Commissioners

CJ Willy Mutunga
Nairobi, Kenya: MPs have demanded that a Supreme Court judge, Court of Appeal judge, a chief magistrate and a senior lawyer be investigated for alleged financial improprieties at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

MPs last evening recommended that Supreme Court judge Smokin Wanjala, Court of Appeal judge Mohammed Warsame, and Chief Magistrate Emily Ominde be investigated by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission.

And in a drastic move the MPs resolved that the implicated commissioners still sitting in the JSC should vacate office pending the investigations, which targets Wanjala, Warsame and Ominde.

Senior counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi, Samuel Kobia and Christine Mango are former JSC commissioners that will also face a probe over alleged drawing of illegal and irregular allowances when they served as commissioners after MPs endorsed a watchdog committee report.

The lawmakers adopted the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the special audit of JSC and Judiciary alongside amendments that required the six to be investigated.

The House also adopted a recommendation for former registrar of the judiciary Gladys Shollei to be investigated for her alleged role in the misappropriation of Sh2.2 billion during her tenure in office.

Justice and Legal Affairs committee chairman Samuel Chepkonga moved the amendment to have the six former and serving commissioners investigated by EACC.

Then Kiharu MP Irungu Kangata moved a further amendment requiring that serving commissioners vacate office pending the investigations. The two amendments were unanimously passed by the House.

The report is also critical of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga's leadership describing him "a good example of a headless head of the judiciary."

Another amendment proposed by Ugenya MP David Ochieng seeking to have JSC commissioners take personal responsibility for allowances paid to them for attending meetings convened without the knowledge and approval of Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga prompted heated exchanges.

Members were divided on whether the commissioners and the CJ should be surcharged for the monies lost.

Ochieng argued that an audit of all such meetings should be undertaken and the responsible commissioners surcharged.

The CJ did not allow the allowances to be given to the commissioners and hence he cannot be held responsible, he added.

But MPs led by Chepkonga argued that Mutunga should be held to account.

And when the matter was put to vote, members passed to have the amendment removed meaning that Mutunga will not be surcharged for the money allegedly misappropriated.

Another amendment by deputy Leader of the majority and Taveta MP Naomi Shaban seeking to have the former Registrar of Judiciary Lydia Achode, now a High Court judge investigated for her role in the irregular procurement of offices at Mayfair Court Centre was also defeated.

Early last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta in a gazette notice suspended commissioners Ahmednasir, Kobia, Mango, Warsame, Ominde and Florence Mwangangi for what was described as breaching the Constitution. But the gazette notice was subsequently nullified through a court order.

In the report tabled by committee chairman Nicholas Gumbo, PAC also recommended far reaching recommendations touching on Mutunga, who was blamed for his poor leadership prompting the heavy losses of money and general mismanagement of the Judiciary.

MPs noted that despite many concerns having been raised over misappropriation of funds at the Judiciary, Mutunga took no step to ensure prudent financial management.

"He has lost control of the judiciary. He is a good example of a headless head of the judiciary. It is shocking that many meetings were held without his approval but he took no action despite being the head," Gumbo said.

Mutunga, the committee further observed had lacked or had limited experience to run a public office before he took over the judiciary.

"Prior to his appointment to head the judiciary, Mutunga had not been in charge of an institution of national outlook and this proved to be a serious challenge," Gumbo added.

The committee was of the opinion that the CJ should like other commissioners share responsibility in the losses incurred in through the shoddy deals and illegal allowances paid out to the same commissioners.

The report has been the centre of controversy between the National Assembly and the Judiciary, with the Chief Justice snubbing summons by parliamentary committees. Last week, Speaker Justin Muturi directed that Mutunga must appear before parliamentary committees whenever summoned.

CurruptionJSC CommissionersCJ Willy Mutunga