JSC interviews for Chief Registrar position fell short in these respects

JSC announced Frida Mokaya Boyani as the candidate chosen to be the next CRJ. [Courtesy JSC]

On Monday this week, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) interviewed seven candidates for the position of Chief Registrar of the Judiciary (CRJ) in a bid to replace long-serving former CRJ Anne Amadi. All the candidates were interviewed on the same day, with the first interview starting in the morning and the last one taking place late at night.

Although each candidate was supposed to be interviewed for an hour, some interviews took as long as two hours or more. The following day, the JSC announced Frida Mokaya Boyani as the candidate chosen to be the next CRJ.

Many Kenyans were concerned that the interviews were not broadcast live as the JSC has done in the past. While the law does not explicitly require live coverage of interviews for the CRJ, it is mandatory for all judges of superior courts, including Judges of Environment and Land Courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice.

Given the importance and seniority of the Chief Registrar's role, many expected the interviews to be broadcast live to enable Kenyans to participate and become informed about the recruitment process of the chief accounting officer of the third arm of government.

This position holds the vital functions of administering the Judiciary Fund, being secretary to the JSC, planning development and organisation of staff and planning, developing and implementing the Judiciary's budget.

Last week, the JSC organised a stakeholder meeting to discuss the recruitment process for the CRJ and 20 High Court judges. Many stakeholders, including ICJ Kenya, called for a transparent process that would include live coverage of the interviews. Other recommendations included ensuring gender and regional balance, equality and inclusion and an emphasis on leadership and integrity.

However, when the interviews commenced, the JSC only provided pictures and tweets from its official account, featuring posters of the candidates and their qualifications and work experience. This did not allow Kenyans to engage with the candidates and assess their suitability for the positions.

Another concern was the decision to carry out the entire process in a single day. This made the process more like an endurance sport for the interviewers and candidates.

A staggered process over two or three days would have given candidates more time and ensured the interviewers were not fatigued. Candidates interviewed late into the night were at a disadvantage as the concentration levels of the interviewing panel would have decreased.

Article 10 of the Constitution lists public participation as a national value and principle of governance. This means that everyone, from state officials to ordinary citizens, must uphold this principle whenever they interpret or apply the Constitution, enact or interpret laws, or make public policy decisions.

Public participation is crucial to democracy and development as it legitimises government actions and ensures good governance.

The JSC should uphold its core values of integrity, transparency, accountability, professionalism, inclusivity, and responsiveness by providing meaningful interview opportunities to candidates. This can be achieved by allocating reasonable amount of time to candidates and allowing panellists to rest between interviews.

Given the importance of the role of CRJ, the interview process should be broadcast live on different platforms, including TV, YouTube and other social media platforms, to bolster transparency and openness. Such arrangements should not be seen as an inconvenience; rather, they should be viewed as accountability safeguards and a duty to the people.

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