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Governors fight for survival in row with Senate

Monday February 17 2014

The Supreme Court building in Nairobi.

The Supreme Court building in Nairobi. Mr Moses Wamuru, a witness in Mr Raila Odinga's election petition, says his life is in danger. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

PAUL OGEMBA
By PAUL OGEMBA
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MAUREEN KAKAH
By MAUREEN KAKAH
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Governors on Monday launched a fightback against the Senate and County Assemblies in the wake of the impeachment of one of them last week.

The governors filed two cases — one in the Supreme Court and the other in the High Court — seeking interpretation on how much evidence is required to impeach a governor. The second case is seeking to stop the Senate from summoning them. (READ: Governors in court over Wambora sacking)

Senators had summoned nine governors; Mr Ken Lusaka (Bungoma), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Kinuthia Mwangi (Nakuru), William Kabogo (Kiambu), Hussein Dado (Tana River), Julius Malombe (Kitui), Samuel Tunai (Narok) and Isaac Rutto (Bomet) to appear before the senate between Wednesday this week and Tuesday next week. (READ: Kidero faults Senate over Wambora sacking)

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma addresses the media on February 17, 2014 on his summons to appear before the Senate committee on Finance. PHOTO | TOM OTIENO

Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma addresses the media on February 17, 2014 on his summons to appear before the Senate committee on Finance. PHOTO | TOM OTIENONATION MEDIA GROUP

The governors had declined earlier summonses with Mr Rutto saying that they could only be “consulted” by the senators, not summoned.

The case in the Supreme Court seeks an advisory opinion whether a governor who is the subject of impeachment hearings has a right to get copies of the accusations made against him before the removal proceedings can start in the County Assemblies. They also want to know whether governors have a right to respond to the accusations.

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“We want the Supreme Court to determine whether the Speaker of County Assembly has an obligation to inform a governor of allegations raised against him and whether the governor should be accorded an opportunity to respond to the allegations,” said the governors in their petition drawn by the law firm of Manyonge Wanyama and Associates Advocates.

ACTS OF OTHERS

The governors argue that they cannot be removed from office for the acts of other public officers within the County Public Service. They also want an advisory opinion on who between them and County Accounting Officers should be answerable to the Senate. (EDITORIAL: Supremacy wars should not target governors)

“We also want an interpretation of gross violation, abuse of office, and gross misconduct in relation to the impeachment of a governor. We will also require the court to give us an opinion on what is the standard of proof for the Senate to be satisfied to remove a governor,” said the council.

Their filings come in the wake of Friday’s impeachment of Embu Governor Martin Wambora by the Senate a week after a similar Motion was passed by members of the Embu County Assembly. (RAED: History as first governor sacked)

In an earlier case, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga had formed a three-member bench to hear the petition filed by Mr Wambora before the Senate proceedings started. Now, the governors want to be enjoined in the case.

In a related case, the High Court certified as urgent the case seeking to stop the Senate to summon nine governors over their management of county finances.

Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi said that although the matter needed to be heard expeditiously the Senate needs to be given time to respond to the suit before granting an order to stop the summons.

The judge directed that the case be heard on Tuesday and that the Senate respond by the time of hearing.

The lawyer for the Council of Governors, Mr Peter Wanyama pleaded with the judge saying that if the court did not grant the order stopping the summons which begin tomorrow, the governors’ case would be overtaken by events.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Mr Wanyama said the summons were unconstitutional. He argued that accounting officers of a national or county public entity should be accountable to the National Assembly and the County Assembly respectively.

“The senate represents the counties to protect the interests of the counties and their governments, the senate can only exercise its powers to summon persons strictly when in line with the Constitution,” said Mr Wanyama.

The embattled governors claim that the Senate should strive to maintain a balance between intruding in county governance and performing its national oversight over county finances.

They, however, acknowledge that the Senate has powers to scrutinise financial records for purposes of deciding on impeachment, intervention, suspension and developing a national legislation necessary for more prudent management of finances at the county level.