Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati can now breathe a sigh of relief after the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Kisumu on Tuesday issued orders stopping the impeachment of three of his county executives (CECs).
The three executive committee members rushed to get the conservatory orders to stop the county assembly from sacking them.
Health and Sanitation CEC Antony Walela, Mr Richard Sabwami (Public Administration) and Mathews Chirasha (Agriculture) obtained the orders barring the assembly from impeaching them.
Judge Mathews Nderi Nduma issued stay orders which gives reprieve to the three as they continue discharging their duties.
Last week, Dr Walela and Mr Sabwami were impeached by the county assembly members who accused them of abuse of office, abetting corruption and other vices.
Dr Walela had been accused of overseeing illegal channelling of Sh6.9 million from Bungoma County Referral Hospital to the Ministry of Finance.
The money was meant for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The emergency response committee members were accused of purchasing 600 20-litre jerricans at Sh10,000 each.
Mr Sabwami was also accused of returning to the Treasury money that had been allocated for the recruitment of village administrators.
He had also been accused of overseeing the embezzlement of Sh6.9 million being the chairman of the emergency response committee.
Mr Walela and Mr Sabwami were grilled on Monday by the assembly’s select committee members.
Mr Chirasha had been accused of going against the Employment Act by engaging in politics.
He was set to be impeached on Wednesday, June 24, and his name had already featured in the order paper.
But the court order jeopardises the assembly’s programme as the status quo remains.
There has been a frosty relationship between the executive and the assembly, something that is likely to affect development in the county.
The move by the court has been faulted by Bungoma civil and human rights activists.
Led by Torch Africa's constitution and governance expert Barasa Kundu Nyukuri, the activists said that the three should have filed their application at the constitutional division of the High Court pursuant to provisions of Article 165 of the Constitution.
Speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, Mr Nyukuri said that the Labour court has limited Jurisdiction to entertain such a petition on matters pertaining to the violation of constitutional rights since it is just but one of the special courts.
"It is only the High Court of Kenya that has original unlimited and supervisory jurisdiction over quasi-judicial institutions like the county assembly and tribunals," he said.
Mr Nyukuri noted that Labour court should have waited until the County Assembly of Bungoma pronounces itself on the matter of impeachment before intervening.
"The conservatory orders issued by the Labour court in Kisumu were premature and a misinterpretation of the Constitution of Kenya and the rule of law," he said.
The activist said that the legislative, representation and oversight mandate and roles of the county assembly are on trial.
"The aforementioned orders are malicious and contradictory and inconsistent [with] provisions of articles 175, 176,185 and 195 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010," he said.
Mr Nyukuri said that according to Article 195, the county assembly sitting or its committee sitting has powers equivalent to those of the High Court of Kenya.
He said the county assembly should not be curtailed in exercising its legislative authority and performing its oversight role over the county executive.
"It is my considered opinion that the said conservatory orders are erroneous and be stayed through an application by the county assembly leadership," he added.