Court blocks vetting of top Government officials

Activist Okiya Omtatah during a past interview with The Standard. [DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD]
A court has blocked vetting of about 1,000 procurement and accounts chiefs in the Government.

Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Onesmus Makau yesterday temporarily suspended, until next Wednesday, a circular sent by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua that required the officials to proceed on 30-day compulsory leave.

Mr Kinyua, representative of Public Service Commission and Attorney General Paul Kihara are expected to appear before the judge to explain the action.

The judge observed that activist Okiya Omtatah had raised weighty issues regarding the directive that emanated from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call to weed out corruption from Government.

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“The application is certified as urgent. The court herein issues an interim order suspending the Circular Ref. No. OP/CAB.39/1A of June 4, 2018, issued by the first respondent ( Kinyua) pending inter partes hearing of the application on June 13, 2018," the judge ruled.

All the affected officials were to proceed on compulsory leave, effective from yesterday.

No powers

In court, Omtatah argued that Kinyua had no powers to carry out the mandate of PSC.

The judge heard that all those who were interdicted were victims of unfair hype in the ongoing war on corruption, as none of them had been found culpable.

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“The biblical doctrine of collective punishment is anathema to Kenya’s constitutional dispensation. Even in the Bible, collective responsibility belongs to the Old Testament,” he argued.

He continued: “Public service is not run on the basis of presidential fiat and roadside declarations, but it is well organised and managed by an independent commission. It is totally unreasonable and procedurally unfair for the public officers who have personally not been accused of any wrongdoing to be punished.”

Uhuru, in his Madaraka Day speech, said the officials would undergo fresh vetting, including polygraph testing, to determine their integrity and suitability.

The President warned that those who failed the vetting would be suspended.

What followed was the circular requiring all heads of procurement and accounting units in ministries, departments, agencies and State corporations to step aside.

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The affected officers were also required to submit their personal information to the office of the Head of Public Service by Friday, including their assets, liabilities and previous records of services.

They were asked to hand over to their deputies.

Proper disciplinary

Omtatah argued that proper disciplinary process was not followed as none got any warning, were not told of their offences or even invited to defend themselves before a decision was taken.

He added the President had no powers to put pressure or give directives to PSC to discipline or interdict its employees.

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Omtatah said: “The petitioner is aggrieved that the blanket disciplinary measure is being imposed on a class of people without holding each one accountable for specific claims as an individual, and without consideration for its impact on the general population and the public service.”

courtGovernmentEmployment and Labour Relations Courtjudge Onesmus MakauvettingState officials