Saturday, October 05, 2013

An Article of Faith.

The Chief Justice alleges that there are new corruption cartels in the administrative cadres of the Judiciary. He adds that these cartels have arisen because of the Judiciary's multi-billion shilling budgetary allocation. This claim seems of a piece with the alleged conspiracy, in which he is involved, to remove the Chief Registrar, the administrative head of the Judiciary, from office. The Judicial Service Commission has already alleged that the Chief Registrar is corrupt; now the Chief Justice ha added his voice to those allegations.

When Kenyans promulgated a constitution in 2010, one of the implicit objectives of the new Constitution was reforming the Judiciary. To this end, the Constitution established a Supreme Court, reconstituted the Judicial Service Commission and decreed that Judges and Magistrates would be vetted to determine whether they were fit to hold office. The reconstituted Judicial Service Commission was supposed to be more reflective of Kenya; it was not be held hostage by the deep State, consisting of operatives in the Judiciary and National Executive alone. This has largely been achieved, and yet the JSC is still not viewed with admiration.

By late 2012, it became apparent that not even the Committee of Experts had anticipated the depths to which the Judicial Service Commission would sink or how fast it did. The press reported rather favourably of the JSC during the process of appointing a Supreme Court. But with the dismissal of the first Deputy Chief Justice and the Chief Justice's interference in the dismissal of another member of the Supreme Court, the press must admit that they got it wrong. When the Chief Registrar unveiled her financial plans to spend billions purchasing Mercedes-Benz vehicles for judges and a mansion for the Chief Justice, ostensibly so that the Judiciary could be seen as an equal of the National Executive and Parliament, it was only a matter of time before the financial administration of the Judiciary became the albatross around its neck.

The most recent crisis in the Judiciary is tied to the financial administration of the Judiciary by the Chief Justice and the Chief Registrar. The Chief Justice, as popular lore would have it, was a reluctant convert to the plot to remove the Chief Registrar, but once converted, he has been an ardent champion. When question were first raised about specific procurement decisions by the Chief Registrar, the Judicial Service Commission was split on the decision to send her on compulsory leave to "pave way for investigations," but the JSC failed to follow the law, the Chief Registrar obtained orders from the court and the whole matter was hashed out in secret between the two parties.

With the temporary reinstatement of the Chief Registrar (she may yet be dismissed), the procurement problems of the Judiciary have only become worse. A multi-billion shilling lease for an office block for the Court of Appeal has run into headwinds as the Judges of that court refuse to occupy that building for fear of "radiation" from a telecommunications gantry next to the building. There are two ways to interpret this event, in the light of recent events: either the Chief Registrar has an undeclared interest in the lease of that building and so has ignored technical advice regarding the health and safety of the building, or this is part of the multi-point "War Plan" of the Chief Justice and his "War Party" to remove the Chief Registrar from office. Either way, it is irrelevant what the Chief Justice and Chief Registrar now say; both have raised serious enough doubts about their probity or integrity that it is time for a full-blown external investigation to make sense of it all.

Naturally, we are all mightily aware of the phrase "due process" and you can put money down that before the Chief Registrar, the Chief Justice or the Judicial Service Commission are investigated, Kenya will spend years, and billions of shillings more, working out what "due process" means in the context of the recent revelations. The Fourth Estate is no good either; in the past members of the press have been known to receive, and to solicit, bribes for favourable coverage of this, that or the other personage. Neither, it seems, is the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission up to the task. Since its reconstitution, and recent appointment of its chairman, it has done little of note, save to keep nailing the small fish while the big fish of Anglo-Leasing, Triton, Goldenberg, Kenya Duty Free, Kazi Kwa Vijana, Ardhi House and sundry other totemic events, run riot in the avenues of the public procurement environment.

But there is one thing that we can count on, call it an article of faith in the public service: the Chief Justice will not resign; the Chief Registrar will not resign; the members of the Judicial Service Commission will not design. All will demand proof of malfeasance and then fight to clear their names once it is presented. And the new cartels, which are really the old cartels, will smile all the way to the Central Bank.

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