UNPRECEDENT RULING

Panic and confusion in Parliament over Mumbi Ngugi’s ruling

The judge ruled that state officers charged with criminal and economic crime offences must step aside

In Summary

• A Senate watchdog committee wants Parliament to take a position on the ruling barring state officers charged with corruption from accessing their offices

• The committee says the ruling has opened the Pandora's box and it has serious implementation challenges

Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee chairman Senator Moses Kajwang
Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee chairman Senator Moses Kajwang
Image: JACK OWUOR

Panic, anxiety and confusion have gripped the National Assembly over a court ruling that state officers facing criminal and economic crimes should not access their offices.

On June 24, Judge Mumbi Ngugi ruled that state officers should stay away from office until their cases are concluded.

Buoyed by the ruling, the anti-graft agencies have demanded the stepping aside of governors, members of Parliament and members of the county assembly charged with graft.

“Absolutely, any state officer, whether governor, senator or member of Parliament or county assembly, must step aside. That is the ruling,” EACC communications officer Yasin Amaro told the Star.

Already Governors Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu)  are locked out of their offices after they were charged with corruption-related offences.

A Senate watchdog committee now wants Parliament to take a position on the fate of MPs currently battling corruption and criminal charges in court.

The County Public Accounts and Investment committee argues that the ruling has opened a Pandora’s box and has serious ramification and implementation challenges.

“What if tomorrow, God forbid, a member of the Senate or the National Assembly faces similar [criminal and economic crime] charges? That member, therefore, technically steps aside. Will they stop being senator or MP? Will they stop being chairperson of committees or members of committees?” committee chairman Moses Kajwang asked.

At least 10 MPs and several MCAs are fighting corruption and related cases in various courts across the country.

“This ruling has opened a Pandora’s box and it is very important for the Senate, and not only the Senate, but Parliament as a whole, to take a very considered position that will help not only deal with governors, but array of state officers including MPs, senators, MCAs and nominated positions,” Kajwang said.

He called on Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and his National Assembly counterpart Justin Muturi to discuss and interpret the ruling and give directions.

The chairman spoke moments after the committee barred Governor Lenolkulal from appearing before it to respond to audit queries by the Auditor General.

In May, Lenokulal was charged with conflict of interest, abuse of office, conspiracy to commit corruption and unlawful acquisition of property.

“We are in a situation that though not very unique, is unprecedented. This Senate has not come across this situation. This committee and the Senate are bound to respect the rule of law. We would not wish to be accused of contempt of court. If the courts have ordered the governor not to access his office, the governor, therefore, has no capacity to appear before this committee,” he said.

Kajwang said, on behalf of the committee, will escalate the matter to the floor of the House for the Senate to take a decision.

“I urge the two speakers to engage and advise us accordingly, but I will bring the matter on the floor next week,” he said.

Kimini MP and National Assembly Minority Chief Whip Chris Wamalwa faulted the ruling, saying it should not be applied to MPs because they do not have executive powers.

"MPs do not handle money. Our work is to legislate and represent our people. How will that interfere with investigations?" he asked.