Speaker faults Mutunga for addressing Parliament ‘through the media’

By: JOHN NGIRACHU

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has criticised Chief Justice Willy Mutunga for giving to the media a letter he (the CJ) wrote to the leadership of the House regarding a damning report on the Judiciary’s management.

At the same time, the Speaker stopped debate on the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report on a special audit of the Judicial Service Commission, which is headed by Dr Mutunga.

Dr Mutunga had on October 27 written the letter and copied it to the Speaker, Majority Leader Aden Duale, Minority Leader Francis Nyenze, Public Accounts Committee chairman Nicholas Gumbo, Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Samuel Chepkong’a, Budget and Appropriations committee chairman Mutava Musyimi and the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The Chief Justice had criticised the PAC report and said it was full of inaccuracies whereas the PAC had made it look like the Judiciary he heads is “headless” and that there was massive misappropriation of taxpayers’ money.

“This matter could have been handled differently had the Chief Justice merely written to me or even written to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

“But you cannot write and take it to the media. What is being discussed, the commentaries that have come as a result of that letter are putting this House and the committee into disrepute,” said Mr Muturi.

“Our two institutions cannot be addressing each other through the media,” he said

Mr Muturi said that from the trail of correspondence between the Chief Justice and the PAC, it was clear he was given whatever he asked for from the committee, which also took the unusual step of sending him the questions he was required to answer.

WHETHER CJ CAN BE SUMMONED

He, however, ruled out the option of saying that the Chief Justice cannot be summoned, suggesting instead that the House would have to put in new guidelines about how the different arms of government interact.

“If we were to take the route of not inviting and or summoning, as the case may be, any person If I were to rule that that is not possible, I would be violating the Constitution, specifically Article 125 because it gives the House that power and I cannot take away that power,” said Mr Muturi.

He said he would give a final ruling on either Wednesday or Thursday next week but suggested it would be up to the committee to decide whether to take the input of the Chief Justice or not.

“It may very well be that it may require that they invite maybe the same fellow, the same fellows from the Judiciary — the accounting officer, the head of the institution, whatever the case may be. It is up to the committee to make a decision,” he added.

The Speaker said it would be a breach of procedure to take the report away from the House and have the committee now take evidence from a witness who failed to appear because he was not clear in his mind on whether he ought to do it.

The matter was raised by Mr Duale before the report could be debated. He cited the letter by Dr Mutunga, saying he wasn’t given a chance to give additional information to the PAC and some of the recommendations had been overtaken by events.

“By: writing the letter, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya is submitting himself to the will of this House. All he is asking for, at a preliminary level, is simply (a) fair hearing, accuracy and justice,” said Mr Duale.

Mr Gumbo, the PAC chairman, referred to correspondence between the team and Dr Mutunga, who had at one time indicated his readiness to meet the MPs but then did not.

A CHANCE TO APPEAR

“The impression created is that the committee did not accord him a chance to appear. I say with a lot of humility that this is not true,” said Mr Gumbo.

He, however, said the situation was an opportunity for the House to consider changing the law so that the Chief Justice is not the automatic head of the Judicial Service Commission or the Speaker the automatic head of the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Mr John Mbadi (Suba, ODM), who was a member of the PAC at the time Dr Mutunga was being invited to meet it, said the decision of the committee to have him meet them was right as the Constitution is absolute.

“The elephant in the room is whether this ‘any person’ (in the Constitution) includes the head of an arm of government such as yourself or the Chief Justice.

“As you make your ruling, you should have in mind that this may include the Speaker as the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission,” said Mr Mbadi.

Mr Mbadi also pointed out the fact that Speaker Muturi has in the past appeared before the Budget and Appropriations Committee in his capacity as chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission.

In one letter, he said, the Chief Justice was trying to direct Parliament on how to conduct itself, which he felt was not proper.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION