Vetting board declares eight magistrates unsuitable to hold office

Judges and Magistrate vetting Board chairman Sharad Rao speaking in Kisumu on September 8 2015 during the release of the suitability Determinant of 36 Magistrates after vetting process. He is flanked by Board members Barnabas Samatt (left) and Justus munyithya. (Photo: Collins Oduor/Standard)

Eight magistrates have been found unfit to hold office in the latest report by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.

They were found to have integrity issues out of the 36 judicial officers from Western Kenya vetted early this year.

The main concerns ranged from financial irregularities after audits of bank statements and wealth declaration forms spanning three years from the date of their appointments to August 2010 were evaluated.

A statement issued in Kisumu by the Board's Chairman Sharad Rao said Ben Mararo, Thomas Nzyoki, James Ndeda, Philip Mutua, Grace M'mmasi, Stellah Atambo, Stephen Mogute and Tito Gesora were found not suitable to serve in the Judiciary.

He said there was one complaint about Mr Mararo that alleged he sanctioned a system at Kyuso Law Courts where the executive officer required parties to pay money to enable the court visit scenes of events.

The board also found that the magistrate's judgements had poor legal analysis and reasoning with several flaws, which points to his inadequate knowledge of substantive and procedural law.

"When asked to forward his wealth declarations forms for year 2008, he simply crossed the date on the form earlier presented for year 2009 and altered it to read 2008," said Rao.

He was also found to have continued to run a law firm even after joining the Judiciary.

For Nzyoki, there were four complaints against him. The first complainant alleged that Nzyoki was compromised by senior government officials to release maize declared contaminated and suitable for destruction when he was a magistrate at the Lodwar Law Courts.

Threaten staff

The complainants also said he was temperamental and used to threaten staff by alleging he was a relative of the Chief Justice.

Mr Ndeda was accused of refusing to issue a complainant with typed proceedings even after being paid for.

"It seems the magistrate realised he had made a mistake in sentencing the accused," he said.

Mr Mutua was found to be unsuitable because his judgements contained a lot of repetitive grammatical mistakes, and his account had questionable deposits.

For Ms M'mmasi, there were complaints of bribery against her but she told the board that she could not remember the details of the complaint.

"Her inability to recall details of a complaint that led to deferment of her promotion for over two years cannot be believed. She is not being candid and there was deliberate intent to withhold information from the board," he said.

Ms Atambo is alleged to have condoned actions of a court clerk who once brought her a bribe of Sh50,000 which she declined, but did not deter her promotion as head of a section.

"She should have taken deterrent steps to ensure such conduct does not recur," Rao pointed out.

Defective charges

Mr Mogute's name fell in the list following complaints that he acquitted people who had cases to answer while serving in Tigania and Meru magistrate courts respectively. In both instances, he pointed out the issue of defective charge sheets at the close of the cases.

For Mr Gesora, the board found out that he was unable to explain several financial transactions including large deposits and withdrawals.

Out of the 36 vetted, 28 among them were found suitable to continue serving as magistrates.