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Ombudsman demands power to prosecute

By | November 14th 2009

by David Ochami

The Public Complaints Standing Committee, also known as the Office of the Ombudsman, is seeking constitutional powers to prosecute those who ignore its summons or refuse to comply with its recommendations.

Created in 2007 through a presidential decree, its recommendations against public officials largely go unnoticed and ignored by those targeted for censure.

Public Complaints Standing Committee Chairman James Simani

But its chairman James Simani now says he needs special prosecutorial powers to enforce the committee’s mandate. He argues an ombudsman without powers is reduced to a talking shop.

"The public believe we don’t have sufficient teeth to enforce compliance," he said.

He said his committee is drafting a Bill seeking to "entrench the ombudsman office in the Constitution" and confer the ombudsman with "power to enforce compliance".

The proposed Bill also seeks to separate the ombudsman’s office from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights as proposed in the Bomas and Wako drafts.

High staff turnover

He was speaking when he met the Committee on Equal Opportunity chaired by Nominated MP Mohamed Abdi Affey in Nairobi, on Friday.

He said besides lacking teeth to ensure compliance, the committee has also been assailed by high turn over of staff at its secretariat.

Simani blamed ministers, permanent secretaries, police and the military for refusing to co-operate in investigations against officials in their departments.

North Horr MP Francis Chachu Ganya supported Simani’s sentiments, saying the committee is meaningless if it has no means and power to enforce public complaint

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