A petition has been lodged before the Judicial Service Commission to remove Chief Justice Martha Koome from office over the appointment of 22 members of the Tax Appeal Tribunal
According to the petitioner Micheal Kojo Otieno, the Chief Justice has gone against the Judicial Code of Conduct and Ethics by failing to adhere to the law on the appointment of the members to the Tax Appeal Tribunal.
The petitioner accuses Koome of being discriminatory against persons who applied to be members of the tribunal by appointing members more than the stipulated requirement under section 4 of the Tax Appeal Tribunal Act.
In his petition, Otieno, a resident of Homabay County accuses Koome of failing to comply with the express provision which required her to appoint not less than fifteen members and not more than twenty of which she appointed more members than the number required as per the law.
"Hence the judge violated Article 3, 10 and rule 3(5) of the code of conduct of judicial officers as read with Public Officers Ethics Act hence defeating public confidence," he says.
The petitioner also faulted Koome for burdening Kenyan taxpayers with her decision to appoint two more members to the tribunal who were not budgeted for.
"The actions of the Chief Justice in the appointment of the tax appeal tribunal are indeed illegal, null and void and hence unfit to hold public office," Otieno says.
Otieno adds that while appointing persons to serve at the tax appeal tribunal, the Chief Justice failed to be honest in the execution of powers conferred to her by the Tax Appeal Tribunal Act based on powers conferred to her as a judicial officer contrary to rule 12(1) of the judicial officers' code of conduct hence unfit to hold the office of a judge.
"Koome has failed the test of being selfless based solely on the public interest being demonstrated with honesty in the execution of public duties while appointing the members of the Tax Appeal Tribunal," the petitioners say.
Otieno has accused the Head of the Judiciary of failing to be transparent, diligent, and committed to upholding the rule of law in her duties which is core in fostering public trust in the legal system in the country.
"The actions of the Chief Justice in the appointment of Tax Appeal Tribunal members violates Article 166(2)(c) of the Constitution and Section 13 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, a judge, judicial officer, and judicial staff shall observe and maintain the following ethical and moral requirements," Otieno states in his petition filed at JSC.
The petition seeking the removal of CJ Koome from office comes months after she appointed new members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal.
In a Gazette notice dated May 10, 2023, Koome said that the new members appointed through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will serve for a term of three years.
"In exercise of the powers conferred by section 4 of the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, 2013, the Judicial Service Commission appoints members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal, for a term of three years, with effect from the 10th May 2023," Koome said.
The new members include Ogaga Gloria Awuor, Ongeti Walter Juma, Ololchike Sankale Spencer, Diriye Abdullahi Mohamed and Vikiru Timothy Bunyali.
Other appointees include Komolo Erick Onyango, Kashindi George Ashiono, Ng’ang’a Eunice Njeri, Muga Christine Anyango, Makau Martin Mutiso James, Terer Boniface Kibiy and Bernadette Muthira Gitari.
The tribunal hears and determines appeals from a person who disputes the decisions of the commissioner on tax matters arising under the tax law provisions.
The tribunal also hears tax matters from taxpayers, both individual and corporate persons, tax agents, advocates and the Kenya Revenue Authority.