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Ferdinand Waititu nomination may dig up integrity issues against him

COUNTIES
By WAHOME THUKU | March 16th 2015

Kenya: The character of former Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu and his suitability to hold public office may come to the fore again, following his nomination as the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) flag bearer for the Kabete by-election.

Exactly one year ago, the High Court nullified Mr Waititu's appointment as the chairman of the Athi Water Services Board (AWSB) on grounds that his integrity had not been considered and evaluated, before the appointment.

And though the court was categorical that it did not determine his integrity, a similar issue could arise between now and May 4, when the by-election will be held. It could come up before Waititu's name is handed to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for nomination as a candidate.

Waititu, who lost to Evans Kidero in the contest for Nairobi governor's seat in 2013 has relocated his political base to Kiambu were he intends to vie for the same seat in 2017. On Saturday he was nominated as the JAP candidate for Kabete, a seat he says will prepare him to face Kiambu Governor William Kabogo in the next General Election.

The question of his integrity and fitness to hold public office was raised in a petition filed by businessman Benson Ritho last year following Waititu's appointment at AWSB. He contended that relevant factors had not been considered in appointing Waititu as chairman.

One of those factors was Chapter Six, Article 73 (1) of the Constitution on integrity.

Waititu had been appointed through a gazette notice on January 10, 2014, for a three-year term. The petitioner moved to court five days later to challenge the constitutionality of the appointment.

He claimed that Waititu lacked character and integrity and it was therefore illegal and unconstitutional for him to hold such an office.

Ritho cited allegations filed in another suit that Waititu had illegally acquired property belonging to his father.

The petitioner further alleged that there were allegations made in court that Waititu had acquired public land unlawfully. He also quoted charges of incitement to violence and hate speech that had then been filed against Waititu.

He argued that had the issues been considered, the appointing authority would have come up with a different decision.

But Wititu's argument was that his integrity was not an issue during the nomination to contest the Nairobi governor's seat. He was charged in September 2012 when he was still an MP. And though he was immediately suspended as Assistant Minister by President Kibaki, he never lost is seat as MP. Later, he went into discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether the charges could be withdrawn if he made a public apology.

In the High Court judgment, presiding judge Mumbi Ngugi found that no inquiry had been made on Waituitu's suitability to hold the office and nullified his appointment.

She, however, ruled that her findings were not related to the character or integrity of Waitutu, or his suitability to chair AWSB but only failure by the authority to consider the issue.

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