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Judiciary and MPs clash over key appointments

NATIONAL
By Moses Nyamori | July 15th 2021
Chief Justice Martha Koome follows proceedings when the Court of appeal President David Musinga took his oath of office at the Supreme Court grounds on Friday, June 11, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Key appointments in the Judiciary could be at the heart of a standoff between Parliament and Chief Justice Martha Koome.

Justice Koome’s recent protest letter to MPs was triggered by National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee summons to the Human Resources Committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over failure to appoint officers substantively.

Office of the Auditor General, in its 2018/2019 report, flagged instances where senior officers have been in acting capacity for more than three years, contrary to the Judiciary HR policies.

The committee had sought details about the scores for all candidates in two interviews held on September 17, 2015 and November 5, 2019 for the position of Director of Finance.

Further, the committee has demanded details of the difference in remuneration between the substantive holder of the position and the acting officer.

Current acting Head of Finance Susan Oyatsi who participated in the two interviews, has since moved to court to stop hiring of a new Head of Finance after the Judiciary advertised the position for the third time.

Oyatsi has served in acting capacity since 2015.

Yesterday, PAC chair Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) wrote to Speaker Justin Muturi seeking guidance if they can write their report without a response from the Judiciary.

The move risks having top judicial officers indicted by Parliament on the audit queries.

“The Public Accounts Committee requests that you make a ruling on whether PAC, in the execution of its mandate, should treat all state organs and agencies equally or not,” the letter reads.

He also wants Muturi to rule on whether PAC can adopt and apply special standards in examining the Auditor General’s reports on the financial statements for the Judiciary and JSC.

“We further seek your guidance on whether PAC can conclude its ongoing work without receiving crucial evidence concerning the audit queries raised in paragraphs 1644 and 1651 of the Auditor General’s report for financial year 2018-2019 or not,” adds the letter.

The committee also seeks to be guided if there are government officials exempted from parliamentary oversight and scrutiny.

Koome, in a letter dated July 7, suspended any further appearances by judicial officers until the "elephant in the room" is addressed by the two speakers, Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate).

She accused MPs of pursuing "individual interests" and "harassing" judicial officers in the name of undertaking their oversight role.

“In the recent past, we have had frequent and multiple summons from Parliament, overlapping and duplicating summons from different committees of the same House, and also between the two Houses to discuss the same issues. Part of it borders on harassment,” said Koome

She cited instances where Chief Registrar Ann Amadi and other senior judicial officers have been summoned to multiple committees to respond to various issues.

In the letter to Muturi, Wandayi said the committee invited Amadi on May 31, 2021 for examination of the audited accounts for the year ended June 30, 2019

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