Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rotten. To the core.

The battle royale brewing up between the Chief Registrar and the Judicial Service Commission was inevitable. The only surprise is that it took this long to bubble up into the public sphere. In November 2012, the JSC, with the active assistance of the Chief Registrar, went out of their way to demonstrate that when it came to financial avarice, the only difference between them and the perfidious National Assembly is that the JSC thinks of itself as above politics, above human emotions, above human greed. In the JSC's defence of its desire for Kenya's version of royal accoutrements it betrayed the people's faith in the reforms that had been mooted. It seemed to many that the reforms were simply meant to pull the wool over the eyes of otherwise over-taxed Kenyans. With this break between the JSC and the Chief Registrar, the scales have finally fallen off our eyes, the rose-tinted glasses have been smashed to bits.

We have documented the greed of the upper echelons of the public service before. The Judicial Service sometimes behaves as if it is not part of the public service, when it is in fact a vital part. But that is neither here nor there; the Judicial Service has been made autonomous by the Constitution, but it is abusing its autonomy in ways that the main-stream public service is very familiar with. It is not surprising that when it comes to self-aggrandizement the Judicial Service is no better than the Parliamentary Service or the rest of the public service, its moral superiority complex notwithstanding. But still, eighty thousand shillings for each sitting allowance insults millions of Kenyans who live way below the official poverty line. A three hundred million shilling mansion for the Chief Justice is immoral when hundreds of thousands of children sleep out in the cold for want of housing.

The sitting allowances and the public procurement by the Judicial Service are the tip of an otherwise rotten iceberg. The JSC and the Chief Registrar have adopted the same attitude that the Tenth Parliament had cemented from that of the Ninth, that the public purse is a bottomless one and that all one needs will be found, whether it is by public borrowing or higher taxes. The attitude of the men and women atop the decision-making tree in the national government is that public finances must be spent. We pay lip-service to efficiency or effectiveness; the real aim of collecting national revenue is to spend it all on white elephants of utility only to those who commission them. It is why you will find water fountains in the middle of the Nairobi CBD in the midst of a water crisis that has bedeviled the capital for nigh on two decades. It is why the JSC will purchase a building in the capital for hundreds of millions of shillings to house the Court of Appeal and the judges of the Court of Appeal will refuse to move in because of unfounded fears of health risks. Wasting public funds is not part of the language, or the conscience, of the Judicial Service.

The Chief Registrar and the JSC are doing the public a power of good. The reform-talk of the past six months had created the impression that the Judiciary had moved on from the legacy of corruption and abuse of power. It is now revealed to be just as canny at manipulating the public as the National Executive or Parliament. It is now revealed to be just as corrupt as the rest of the public service. It is now revealed that it is adept at sophistry. It is now the past-master of snake-oil salesmen. It is rotten. To the core.

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