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Judiciary audit that never was

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

Two and a half years after the then Chief Justice Willy Mutunga called for a forensic lifestyle audit of Judicial officers, the subject has been left to hang in the balance, People Daily has established.

If anything, we learnt, the matter has been left to rest and may not be revisited any time soon. Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi confirmed the move by Mutunga had, indeed, reached a dead end.

In a telephone interview last week, Amadi said the matter had not been addressed since Mutunga’s departure in September 2016 and there were no indications that it would be revived soon.

“It was not followed through. The matter has not been pursued further and there has been no directive to have it followed up,” she told People Daily.

On January 18, 2016, Mutunga asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to conduct a lifestyle audit following a hue and cry over flashy living standards among judicial officers.

But Mutunga left the helm of the Judiciary before EACC detectives started the audit. He was replaced by the then head of Kisumu Appellate court Justice David Maraga.

By the time Mutunga left, panic had gripped the courts with a number of judicial officers unsure of their future.

Sources within legal circles  revealed that unbecoming conduct among some members of the Judiciary raised suspicions that graft was widespread.

There were claims that judges and magistrates were living fabulous lifestyles beyond their remuneration brackets.

It was against that background that Mutunga reportedly called on EACC to step in.

“I have asked the EACC and the Auditor General to conduct a lifestyle audit in the Judiciary starting with me and Supreme Court judges,” Mutunga said.

Since making that statement, claims of high-level corruption in the Judiciary cropped up, the most sensational being reports contained in a sworn affidavit that then Supreme Court judge Justice Philip Tunoi had received Sh202 million from agents of then Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero to influence judgement in favour of the latter in a case pitting him and a 2013 loser in the governor contest Ferdinand Waititu.

Tunoi and Kidero refuted the allegations contained in former journalists Geoffrey Kiplagat’s affidavit.

However, a special committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) formed to probe the claims against Tunoi concluded that the judge had indeed “made inappropriate interaction with a litigant” and recommended to President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter. Tunoi resigned before the tribunal released its findings.

Soon after, former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile asked JSC investigate Justice David Majanja of the High Court who had handled his unsuccessful petition against the winner Patrick Musimba.

An 87-year-old woman in Nakuru also asked the JSC to intercede in a matter in which she claimed to have paid Sh150,000 to a judge after being asked to do so by her lawyer to ensure she gets a favourable judgement in a land dispute.

So Much has happened since Mutunga (pictured) invited EACC to conduct a lifestyle audit.

Apart from Maraga taking over from Mutunga, both the Supreme Court and JSC have been reconstituted just as has the Court of Appeal where its president Paul Kihara Kariuki left to become Attotnery-General. William Ouko is now the head of the Appellate court while Philomena Mwilu is now the Deputy Chief Justice.

The Judiciary is currently grappling with challenges of a different nature  after the Treasury substantially slashed its budget.  Justice Maraga has lamented that the move would affect the delivery of justice.

For the time being, it would seem, the subject of a lifestyle audit will remain in the back burners.

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