Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has obtained a court order suspending his arrest for snubbing three summonses by a Senate oversight committee to respond to audit queries. Justice Kanyi Kimondo has also barred police from interfering with ...
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has obtained a court order suspending his arrest for snubbing three summonses by a Senate oversight committee to respond to audit queries.
Justice Kanyi Kimondo has also barred police from interfering with the governor's liberty over any summonses to appear before the Senate Committee on County Public Accounts and Investments.
The judge issued the order today (Monday) after the governor moved to court to challenge a letter written by the committee to Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, seeking his arrest for disobeying the summonses.
Justice Kimondo reached the preliminary conclusion that the committee’s decision to ask the police boss to arrest Mr Wa Iria without a hearing was unwarranted and arbitrary.
"There is no evidence at this stage demonstrating that the governor and the Murang'a county government were accorded a hearing before the disputed decision was taken," said the judge.
The court further noted that the Senate failed to explain “in a satisfactory manner, why it insisted on an in-person appearance by the governor at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The demand for a physical appearance was against the express resolution of the Senate, conveyed by Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to the Council of Governors (CoG) on July 30, Justice Kimondo said.
The letter indicated that physical sittings of Senate Committees had been suspended for 30 days, effective July 30, and that all appearances were to be virtual.
The court noted that Mr Wa Iria was summoned before the expiry of the 30 days.
Mr Wa Iria told the court that all the 47 governors were excused by the Speaker from “physical attendance” during the pandemic.
The committee, chaired by Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri, invited Mr Wa Iria for a meeting on August 11 to consider reports of the Auditor-General on financial statements for years 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.
When he did not appear, the committee issued summons for him to do so on August 28.
He again snubbed the meeting, prompting the committee to invoke Article 125 of the Constitution and section 8 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act and issue a warrant of arrest.
It further directed the Inspector-General to enforce the warrant and produce the governor on September 10.
This forced the governor to rush to court contending that the actions of the committee violated various provisions of the Constitution.
Mr Wa Iria, who is also vice-chair of the CoG, told the court that in view of the pandemic, he had requested the senators to allow him to appear virtually through a video link.
He said he made arrangements for this but no link was provided. He further said that his age falls within the bracket of persons most vulnerable to the disease.
"The conduct by the committee was not bona fide and may have been driven by chagrin over certain positions taken by the CoG against the Senate," he said.
The county chief’s petition was supported by the CoG’s Chief Executive Officer Jaqueline Mogeni, who told the court that owing to the pandemic, the Head of Public Service had issued circulars requiring all State and public officers to work from home.
Ms Mogeni said the officers were also required to conduct meetings through WebEx or Zoom.
She noted that the circulars have not been revised.
The Senate, in opposition to the petition, told the court that the county executive had sufficient notice and should have been ready for the meeting.
Through its Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye, it raised doubts about the governor’s sincerity or his vulnerability to Covid-19 because “from the media, Mr Wa Iria has been attending public meetings in large groups”