Former Garissa County finance executive Idriss Mukhtar and two of his colleagues in the previous administration have been given the green light to attach the county government’s assets to enforce a Sh53 million court award they got two years ago for wrongful termination.
The Controller of Budget, who signs off all withdrawals from the County Revenue Fund and the Consolidated Fund, told the court that judgments against county governments can be enforced in the usual manner, including attachment of a devolved unit’s properties and committal to civil jail of specific officials, because they are not a charge on the fund.
“Judgment debts do not qualify as a charge on the County Revenue Fund it would be advisable for the petitioners to execute it in the normal manner, including attachment of properties belonging to the county government, committal to civil jail of the relevant accounting officer or having the court issue a garnishee order on the operational accounts of the county government,” Selina Amsugut Iseme, the director legal services in the office of the Controller of Budget, said.
The court heard that the Garissa Appropriation Bill, 2018 did not specifically set out how the vote for settlement of judgment debts should be allocated and that it is the County Treasury’s role to distribute it to different departments for utilisation.
The Employment and Labour Relations court in November summoned the Finance executive, his chief officer and the Controller of Budget’s representative to explain why the county had failed to pay the award.
Mukhtar, Salah Yakub and Mukhtar Bulale, all former CECs in the previous county administration, were awarded the amount for wrongful termination of their contract by the former governor, Nathif Jama.
Mr Mukhtar is lying in a comma in an Indian hospital after he was shot in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa estate on August 19 as he sought to challenge the authenticity of Garissa Governor Ali Korane’s Master’s degree. Mr Korane had been questioned over the shootings.
Mr Mukhtar’s father has since taken over the matter and filed a suit seeking to declare Mr Korane unfit to hold office for lack of qualification.
The Controller of Budget on December 3 told the court that the law allows it to authorise a direct charge on the County Revenue Fund if the expenditure qualifies as county public debt, salaries and allowances of the governor and deputy governor. The Public Finance Management Act defines county public debt as that emanating from loans and securities issued by the county government.
The Controller of Budget said the rest of the claims could only be settled by the county, and that is where the court award to the former county officials falls.
The Garissa county government had challenged the award but the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling culminating into the current dispute over refusal to pay.
The county government was ordered to pay the trio for the two years they had been in the cold. The court said the governor had violated the labour laws, Sections 31 and 40 of the County Government Act and Sections 47 and 50 of the Constitution.
Initially, the county government had been ordered to pay damages equivalent to 12 months’ salary, one month salary in lieu of notice, and any other benefits under the employees’ contracts, including gratuity for the period until October 27, 2016 when the judgment was delivered and any accrued leave not taken.
The total outstanding amount has been accruing interest and now stands at Sh53 million.