Tunoi Sh200m bribe probe gets under way

President Uhuru Kenyatta's appointee to chair a tribunal to probe a judge accused of misconduct was sworn in yesterday.

Sharad Rao, the chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, was sworn in alongside five other members of the tribunal; Justice Roselyn Korir, Judith Guserwa, Abdirashid Abdullahi, George Munji and James Kaberere.

The team will investigate the veracity of claims that Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi received a Sh200 million bribe from Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to influence an election petition against him.

But retired judge Jonathan Havelock was missing during the afternoon ceremony presided over by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at the Supreme Court.

This prompted Solicitor General Njee Muturi to explain his absence. Muturi said the judge was caught up in personal issues and would be sworn in as a member of the tribunal at a time the CJ will endorse. Rao, however, said Havelock will be sworn in today.

It was however alleged that the retired High Court judge had declined the offer, as the Government had not paid him his retirement dues of about Sh8 million.

But Muturi refuted the claim. "I have talked with the judge and he has personal commitments. That is why he did not attend. We will have him sworn in as a member at a time agreed between him and the Chief Justice."

Muturi also defended the suitability of Rao to chair the tribunal. He challenged anyone who had an issue with his appointment to file a petition before the court.

He termed the uproar on Rao's qualification as Internet litigation, adding that the tribunal would go on with its work. He said  Rao had already been gazetted as chair and nothing had changed.

Rao's appointment as the chair attracted criticism, with some lawyers questioning the suitability of the 81-year-old lawyer to head the tribunal as he had never sat as judge. It was also argued that his age locked him out of appointment as a judge of any court.

Article 168 (5) of the Constitution stipulates the tribunal should consist of a chairperson and three other members from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a superior court, or who are qualified to be appointed as such but who, in either case, have not been members of the Judicial Service Commission at any time within the immediately preceding three years.

The tribunal will meet on Monday to discuss when to commence the case.