Kenya: The hard questions on Ringera

aaron_ringeraThe controversy over the re-appointment of Justice Aaron Ringera (pictured) as the anti-graft czar refused to go away, even as hard questions were posed to President Kibaki on his decision to bypass the Advisory Board and Parliament.

These unanswered questions from citizens, lobby groups, donor countries, their agencies, and Parliament are begging for answers from an increasingly lethargic Executive.

Yesterday afternoon, and for the third day in a row, Parliament took the Government to task over the “illegal” re-appointment of Ringera, as Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and those of two Assistant Directors Fatuma Sichale and Smokin Wanjala.

As the outrage spread, questions started popping up in quick succession, even as the Executive led by Government spin-doctor Alfred Mutua and Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo strenuously sought to defend their position as legal.

Must consult

Among the questions popping up in the House were: Whom did President Kibaki consult in coming up with the decision? Was he misadvised? What was the hurry in re-appointing the man who has spearheaded the war on corruption for the last five years? And did the President abide by the letter and the spirit of the law?

Yesterday, The Standard confirmed that apart from Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was not consulted, two other top officials were also kept in the dark.

And this in spite of what Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka declared to the nation that there had been wide consultations before the heavily criticised move was announced.

Attorney-General Amos Wako, the Governments chief legal advisor, is said to have been kept in the dark, as was Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo.

Mutula has denied being party to the decision to reappoint Ringera, although he has studiously defended the Presidents action, saying he had not broken any law.

Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu told The Standard that she had confronted Wako and Mutula to find out whether they were responsible for “misadvising” the President to reappoint Ringera, which they denied. “Wako and Mutula told me they were not consulted and neither did they offer any advice to the President, and now we are wondering who did it,” added Ngilu, on Wednesday night soon after she voted to reject a Government adjournment Motion.

Yesterday, the Justice Minister in the company of Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua said Section 24 of the Constitution was clear that subject to the Constitution and any other law, the power of making appointments to any office is vested in the President.

But sources, who spoke to The Standard, dismissed this view, contending the Governments penchant for harking back at the Constitution every time it errs was unacceptable and smacked of duplicity.

“Dont be fooled the Government is going overdrive in this matter. If it were true, which it is not, why then would we need to have any other legislation at all apart from the Constitution?” a Nairobi lawyer asked.

He contended that indeed the Presidents re-appointment of Assistant Director John Mutonyi and Wilson Shollei who had served for five years with Ringera in accordance with the provisions of the law, was an admission by the Executive that there was due process.

A precedent was set, and it must be followed to the letter, he said.

But several MPs interviewed by The Standard associated the reappointment of Ringera to the return to work of Kibakis right hand man, the Head of Civil Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura.

Senior politicians

Politicians privy to the goings-on in the Office of the President and at State House said some senior politicians around the President could have exploited his conservativeness and pushed the Ringera re-appointment.

The Government has been under intense barrage in Parliament, where Backbenchers with the support of some ministers shot down a Government Motion to adjourn the House for recess.

The MPs are seeking to amend the Appropriations Bill to block this years Budget cash allocations to KACC, a move that could cripple the commissions operations.

Ngilu, and ODM Cabinet ministers James Orengo, William ole Ntimama, Anyang Nyongo and Assistant Ministers Elizabeth Ongoro, Jackson Nanok voted with backbenchers.

The Government side went on to lose the vote by 36 votes, against backbenchers 59.

Ngilu said she was disappointed with the way the President handled the matter since she had also learnt that Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is a “senior partner in this Government”, had not been consulted.

The spotlight also turned on the KACC Advisory Board, with some wondering why it had delayed the advertisement and interviewing with a view to presenting their recommendations to Parliament before it goes on recess.

The House was meant to go on recess yesterday, while the board was planning to meet the previous day to discuss the way forward on Ringeras position. Ringeras contract was due to expire next week.

Observers are also questioning why the board, chaired by LSK chairman Okongo Omogeni, failed to advertise the post in June after being sworn-in.

Legal policy

In an interview with The Standard, Mutula said whereas the President did not consult him while carrying out the appointment, he was not required to do so since his work was about dealing with legal policy.

“My work in this ministry is about legal policy and if the President required any legal advice, the Governments chief legal advisor was the Attorney General,” he added.

However, in his defence of Kibaki on Tuesday, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka said the Head of State had “consulted widely”.

Mutula, while suggesting that the President may have acted fast to avoid a vacuum, added that if there was any blame over the appointment, it should lay squarely at the doorsteps of the KACC Advisory Board.

The Standard

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