Ipoa chair, members differ over return of ousted CEO

IPOA Chair Anne Makori during vetting by a Parliament committee. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
What started with the sacking of a senior staffer at the Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) has blossomed into an all-out war that is threatening to tear apart the Authority.

The chair of the board, Ms Anne Waceke Makori, appears to be a lone-ranger on the board; defied, accused and scorned by fellow board members.

On Tuesday, vice-chairman Jonathan Lodompui and members Fatuma Mohamed, Dr Jimmy Mwithi, Doreen Muthaura, Praxedes Tororey and JM Waiganjo turned their backs on her after she allowed the CEO they had suspended back to the office without their approval.

Maina Njoroge was sacked earlier this month by the board after a year of service. He was hired in April last year by the exiting Ipoa board then chaired by Macharia Njeru and against the advice of Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

Ms Makori’s unilateral and alleged secret reliance on an advisory from Attorney General’s office to reinstate Njoroge at Ipoa offices at ACK Gardens is what has turned the tables against her. On Monday, the six board members read her the riot act:

“Madam Chair, you are in violation of Article 35 of the Constitution and Section 31(1)(b) of the Ipoa Act. As such, we demand that you share with the board, on email and in print, communication between yourself and the Attorney General forthwith.”

Unwarranted secrecy

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They complained of the “unwarranted secrecy” with which the communication was handled and made it clear to their chair that “access to information by the board is not a matter to be trivialised.” In the memo copied to the acting CEO, the board members accused the chair of undermining them. “Note that this has been continued sabotage to the board. The board is never made aware of critical communication about the authority that is received by your office,” they claimed.

Yesterday, Makori told the Sunday Standard that she is a stickler to rule of law and cannot preside over the non-procedural sacking of the CEO. She praised Njoroge for winning Ipoa an award on prudent financial management and for turning out zero pending bills. “I have been accused of single-handedly supporting the CEO. The fact of the matter is that I stick to the rules, follow processes and watch out for the institutional good. The rest of the matters we can always thrash out and agree,” she said.

Asked whether the other board members have accepted Njoroge, she responded: “The situation is that he is back, and nobody has formally raised any objection, to the best of my knowledge.”

But according to memos in our possession, the board is firm in its resolve that their decision to fire Njoroge cannot be revoked or varied by anyone. “Maina Njoroge remains legally debarred to assume office that he was lawfully and procedurally dismissed from, unless and until the due process is pursued and endorsed by the board.”

On Monday, Makori had announced to the Ipoa staff the comeback of Njoroge while at the same time reminding that they acted on “delegated authority” of herself and the CEO. She announced that reinstatement was arrived at in consultation with the government.

The ink on her letter to staff had barely dried when her board members fired back, asking staff -- through the acting CEO -- to ignore the letter. They dropped all pretence of collective responsibility and went for the jugular. “That is an admission on her part that the decisions of the authority are now done outside the authority and forced down on the board and staff. It thus depicts a compromise of authority’s integrity and independence in utter violation of Section 4 of the Ipoa Act,” they wrote.

The board members also refuted Makori’s claim that she acted on delegated authority from her or the CEO quoting the Ipoa Act provisions and said everything rested with the board. They asked the staff to look up to the constitution, Ipoa Act and the board for guidance.

They claimed the survival of Ipoa was highly dependent on public perception, goodwill and support. It was their view that Makori is hellbent on destroying these. “The board wishes to inform members of the staff that the directive by the chair is not supported by law and is intended to bring the operations of the authority to a halt. As such, it must be disregarded,” they said.

The confusion at Ipoa, it seems, has spread beyond the walls of ACK Gardens, if a press report issued by the Police Reforms Working Group on Thursday is anything to go by. Ideally, the group, a consortium of 25 civil society organisations, would bring sanity and focus on Ipoa’s mandate.

But when they weighed in on the matter in their press statement, the group unmistakably cast their lot with the sacked CEO, accused the board of posturing itself as a commission and revisited the recruitment of the board members, completely opening fresh lines of controversy.

Turning their guns on the board members, the group also invited the Parliamentary Committee on Administration and National Security to institute a probe and in a striking irony, pleaded with Public Service Commission and the Treasury to safeguard the independence of the secretariat.

Among the fresh issues raised by the group include the legality of remuneration and salaries of the current board, the branding of Ipoa in near-commission terms and transformation of the board into a full board as opposed to part-time.

“We do believe that the process that led to the appointment of the current board, and subsequent assumption of full-time status may be the genesis for the current situation within Ipoa,” they said.

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Independent Police Oversight AuthorityIpoaAnne Waceke Makori