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What High Court verdict means for Matiang’i, Boinnet

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Immigration PS Gordon Kihalangwa risk public censure and removal from office following their conviction and sentence for contempt of court.

Although they escaped direct sanctions from High Court judge Justice George Odunga, any person is at liberty to petition the court for their sacking on the basis that they have failed the integrity test required of holders of public office. Chapter Six of the Constitution deals with requirements State officers are expected to uphold on leadership and integrity.

Article 75 forbids them from engaging in any activities that compromise or conflict personal interests and officials duties or bring disrepute to their offices.

Offenders of the strict code of conduct spelt out under Articles 76, 77 and 78 of the Constitution are subject to disciplinary proceedings that may result in their dismissal and removal from office. Any public officer who has been shown the door on account of misconduct is disqualified from holding any other State office.

The dilemma facing Matiang’i, Boinnet and Kihalangwa can only be resolved once they make a formal personal appearance before Justice Odunga to suspend his decision.

They were sentenced in absentia after failure to obey orders to attend court proceedings and their only option is to plead their case before the Judge.

Former Senior Deputy Solicitor-General, Muthoni Kimani, who now serves as the Director of the Assets Recovery Agency, tasted the wrath of the High Court on June 15, 2015 when she was slapped with a fine of Sh300,000 or three months’ imprisonment in default for willful disobedience of court orders requiring him to pay Sh6.5 million compensation to Nyayo House torture victim Gitau Mwara.

Then High Court Judge David Onyancha ruled that a custodial sentence against Muthoni was inappropriate but substantive punishment was necessary to serve as a deterrent to guard against disregard for court orders.

Muthoni had demonstrated remorse for the delay in paying Mwara the fruits of his judgments against the State, the Judge observed, but her contemptuous attitude had undermined the dignity of the court and the rule of law. Justice Onyancha had said the guilty verdict passed on the civil servant on May 7, 2015 was a black-spot in her 30-year career.

She had frustrated the settlement of the compensation and her argument that she was not personally responsible for payment could not hold any water, the Judge said. Muthoni had been granted Sh1 million personal bond.

Former Solicitor-General Njee Muturi sanctioned the payment on May 19 after Muthoni was found guilty of disobeying orders compelling her to release the payment that had been released by the defunct ministry of Home Affairs on October 21, 2012 for onward transmission to Mwara.

Muthoni had been personally served with orders issued by Justice Hatari Waweru on May 3, 2013, requiring her to pay Mwara Sh4,749,122 within 14 days and allowed the aggrieved beneficiary to take legal action against her to enforce compliance.

Lawyer Grace Ngari, who represents Mwara, had applied for Muthoni to be imprisoned for one year or pay Sh1 million fine for defying the court order.

Justice Onyancha said he was satisfied that Muthoni’s failure to abide by the orders was “deliberate, unlawful and without reasonable excuse.” “All State officers must comply with court orders and they cannot be allowed to trash them with impunity. They have no options or choices.

Those who flagrantly disobey court orders must be punished,” Justice Onyancha had said. Mwara had been awarded the compensation by High Court Judge Abida Ali-Aroni on June 9, 2010.

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