Public participation law needed to prevent wrangles, says judge

Nairobi Deputy Governor Njoroge Muchiri and CEC Inclusivity, Public Participation and Customer Care Anastasia Nyalita being shown how the County serves residents of Nairobi during Customer Service Care Week on August, 02, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard].

The Employment and Labour Relations Court has recommended that the Attorney General consider taking a Bill to Parliament to end battles on public participation.

Justice Byram Ongaya said time is ripe to have a law on the controversial matter.

The judge is presiding over a battle between Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and its members over the amendment of the union’s constitution.

Justice Ongaya said public participation is the only principle that allows Kenyans to be a part of the governing process.

“It would appear that a time has come for the Parliament to consider and pass codifying legislation for implementation and realisation of that constitutional value and principle of participation of the people. Such legislation may encompass the values and principles of public service in Article 232 (1) (d) and (f) namely, the involvement of the people in the process of policy making; and, transparency and provision to the public of timely, accurate information,” said Justice Ongaya.

The case against the union was filed by Barrack Ambasa, Stanley Korir, John Opiyo, Kenyamann Orieong’oa, and Martha Amoto. The petitioners claimed that Knut had amended the constitution and extended the terms of its top officials and branch secretaries.

Further, the group claims that the amendments done last year were discriminatory as some carders of union officials were left out.

They argue that the revisions were done without a secret ballot and there was no public participation.

But Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu told the court that the claims could not be proved as the case had no verifying affidavit.

Oyuu further stated that the union had in 2015 initiated the process of amending its 2015 constitution to align it with the developments in the labour industry locally and internationally.

TSC backing

He explained that Knut’s draft was approved by the National Executive Council on December 2, 2021, and the same was presented to the Advisory Council, which also gave a green light on the same 14 days later.

Oyuu stated that the same document was presented before its 2,000 members on February 19, last year, and they unanimously adopted it.

As part of public participation, Oyuu said, the notice of amendments was published in the local dailies as required by the law.

He maintained that the union followed the law to the letter. He confirmed that the operations of the teachers’ union are governed by the 2022 Knut constitution.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) also backed Knut. Responding for the commission, Dr Julius Olayo argued that the case was an abuse of court process.

Olayo also said TSC was wrongly enjoined in the case as the dispute revolved around teachers and not the employer.

He, nevertheless, said there was no evidence that Knut had breached the law by amending its constitution. He argued that the union was justified to amend its former constitution, adding that it had complied with the law.

After listening to the rival arguments, Justice Ongaya agreed with Knut and TSC. He ruled there was no evidence to show that the union breached the law.