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MCK ordered to reinstate sacked member

By Moses Nyamori | March 3rd 2021

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Communications Manager Tabitha Mutemi (left) with her lawyer Kethi Kilonzo shortly after meeting the National Assembly's ICT Committee on Wednesday, March 03 2021 over the legality of her status in serving as the Commission and as a board member at the Media Council of Kenya. [David Njaaga, Standard]

A parliamentary committee has ordered the reinstatement of IEBC Communications Manager Tabitha Mutemi (pictured) as a board member of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

MCK boss David Omwoyo had been accused of trying to oust her unprocedurally.

The National Assembly’s Committee on Communication Information and Innovation yesterday directed that Mutemi be allowed to continue discharging her mandate with immediate effect.

The council member had been blocked from accessing the council’s offices at Britam House in Upper Hill and her profile pulled down from the website of the media regulator.

The committee chaired by William Kisang (Marakwet) issued the order after Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto declared the purported removal as irregular saying it did not follow the set procedure.

“The process of her removal has not been exhausted and as long as it has not been exhausted, she remains a board member,” Ogeto told the committee.

However, the Solicitor General told the committee that Mutemi’s hiring as board member was in contravention of the IEBC Act.

He cited provisions of the Act that prohibit an employee of the electoral agency from holding any other public office.

“IEBC prohibits its employees from holding any other public office when still serving the commission,” said Ogeto.

Remedial action

ICT Principal Secretary Esther Koimett said according to the Attorney General’s advisory, Mutemi's continued stay in office was in contravention of the law.

“The holding of both offices of an employee of the IEBC and a member of the Media Council of Kenya by Mutemi is a violation of the Constitution and other statutes requiring immediate remedial action,” Koimett said.

She told the MPs that the ministry had advised Mutemi to make up her mind about the two positions as she could not continue holding both.

“The ministry, in a letter dated September 16, 2020, advised Mutemi that she could not hold both positions and should decide by September 30, 2020 either to remain an MCK Council Member or IEBC employee,” she added.

Mutemi had petitioned Parliament over the attempted ouster by Omwoyo after the chief officer wrote a letter on January 22, 2021 purporting to terminate her contract with the council.

Omwoyo yesterday told the committee that he took the decision after receiving the AG’s advisory that it was illegal for Mutemi to serve as board member when she was still an IEBC employee.

The chief officer said he risked being surcharged for continuing to authorise payments of allowances to Mutemi.

“As the accounting officer, I am bound to follow the written laws. I was bound to act on the legal opinion of the AG by stopping any payments to the member,” said Omwoyo.

He gave a similar scenario when former MCK chairman Charles Kerich was appointed as member of the Nairobi County Executive Committee and was subsequently advised to resign.

Mutemi, however, defended herself stating that she made the disclosure when she applied for the job and during the interviews.

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