Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
State officers have been dealt a blow after the High Court ruled that they may be suspended or restricted from accessing their offices if charged with corruption.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi, while declining to lift orders that restricted Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal from accessing his offices without permission from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, ruled that governors can stay away from office and their roles taken over by their deputies for the duration of the trial.
Following the ruling, EACC chief executive officer Twalib Mbarak said: “Following the ruling, it will no longer be business as usual for constitutional office holders facing criminal charges of corruption and economic crimes.”
Yesterday, Nairobi-based lawyer George Wajackoya hailed the ruling as historic in the fight against corruption for the investigative agencies that have been accusing the Judiciary of being a stumbling block.
“In essence, what the ruling means is that the EACC and the DCI can now move back to court and demand for the review of bail terms for some of the governors who have already been charged so that they are denied access to their offices,” said Wajackoya.
“The EACC and the DCI have now been given enough teeth to bite and it is upon them to ensure that the ruling is enforced.”
According to the judge, there will be will no vacuum in the county, as the Constitution provides for the seat of a deputy governor.
“I take Judicial notice of the fact that there have been circumstances in the past in which county governors have for reasons such as ill health, been out of office, and the counties have continued to function,” she ruled.
Justice Ngugi found Section 62 (6) of Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act violates the Letter and Spirit of Chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity.
In her ruling, however, she noted that the said section is entrenching corruption and impunity and undermines the prosecution of officers in the governor’s position.
According to the judge, Lenolkulal was charged with abuse of office which was basically being charged with enriching himself at the expense of the people of Samburu.