Battle to remove Kakamega jobs board members hots up in assembly

When former Kakamega county Governor Wycliffe Oparanya gave his last adress at the County Assembly on June 7, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The hearing of a petition seeking to remove Kakamega County Public Service Board (CPSB) members has been adjourned to Monday next week.

Lawyers representing the board members, the petitioner Edwin Shivakale and the County Assembly Public Service and Administration Committee engaged in a heated argument that led to the adjournment of the session.

Mr Shivakale, a resident of Kakamega, wants CPSB members removed from office over claims of gross misconduct, corruption and incompetence.

The board memebrs are Catherine Omweno (chairperson), Ambrose Subayi (vice chairperson) and Joel Omukoko. Others are Dr Ralph Wangatiah, Stanley Were and Sylvia Otunga.

Lawyers representing the respondents led by Calistus Shifwoka confronted the County Assembly Committee chairman Willis Opuka demanding an explanation over why the latter ruled that the service board members vacate their offices until the petition is heard and determined.

“What you mentioned interferes with the work of the county public service board which is a semi-autonomous entity. This assembly committee has no powers to stop the board from discharging its duties,” Mr Shifwoka objected

Shifwoka lamented that their clients had been denied access to critical documents by the public service board secretary Catherine Gathoni, who was not included in the petition and demanded to know who ordered that.

He also told the assembly committee that his team was not given sufficient time to prepare to appear for the hearing.

Ken Echesa, also appearing for the board members demanded that the session be suspended until the respondents get the documents they were denied access to.

“The respondents need time to prepare a defence yet they have no benefit of accessing relevant materials needed to mount such a defence. That’s unlawful,” said Echesa

County assembly committee vice chairman Peter Walonya ruled that no extra days will be granted to the respondents to prepare their defense. He claimed respondents did not make a formal request for the documents in question.

On sending the board home he said: “Fair labour practices demand that you pave the way and allow investigations to be conducted in your absence." Evans Mireri told reminded the House committee that it sits as a quasi-judicial committee and it is bound to follow the law.”

The legal team was overruled by Mr Opuka, the committee chairman who then called the petitioner to the witness stand.

Mr Shivakale told the committee that the board members must be removed from office for recruiting 400 revenue officers and an additional 74 revenue clerks without the approval of the cabinet.

He based his arguments on an internal audit report that was conducted by the service board between July 2020 and June 2021.

“That the conduct of the service board was selfish, illegal and devoid of national values in accordance with Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity,” said Shivakale

But the respondents lawyers objected, saying they did not have the document referred to by the petitioner.

“It defies the norms that an accused person walks into a tribunal and gets an ambushed trial. You can’t make a decision based on a trial ambush. Anything not served to our client must be expunged as evidence.”

The House Committee ruled that the petitioner serves the respondents will documents he intended to use.