EDITORIAL: Avoid abuse of principle

Wednesday June 24 2020

The quick collapse of Nyali MP Mohammed Ali’s bid to have Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia impeached is a significant test of public governance. First, it confirms that there is a system in which the performance of holders of public office can be scrutinised to evaluate whether they are up to the tasks they have been assigned. But equally important is that public officers cannot just be hounded out of office on a whim.

Quite crucial is the fact that there is a threshold that must be attained before such accusations can reach the stage where they are evaluated. This is a vital cushion against the tendency to file frivolous accusations that just end up wasting people’s time and interfering with the targeted officials’ discharge of their duties.

The motion seeking the CS’s sacking was supported by 90 out of the 349 members, as required by law, but National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi found that it lacked the required evidence to substantiate the allegations and could, therefore, not be cleared for debate. The MP had accused the CS of gross misconduct and violating the Constitution over a policy that granted a cargo transport monopoly to the standard gauge railway.

Of course, after this setback, Mr Ali has every reason to feel aggrieved by the Speaker’s ruling, but this is still proof that we actually have a system that works. The right to impeach public officers who fail to perform their duties to expectations is a good principle. However, it should never be abused. It simply means that whoever is making such accusations must be driven not by malice but a genuine conviction that this is meant to serve the public interest. Such a petition must, therefore, be accompanied by impeccable evidence to prosecute the case.