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Kenyan Parliament Running Out of Time

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TEHRAN, April 24 (ICANA) – Parliament is set to effect the first amendment under the new Constitution as delays in implementation begin to be felt.
Sunday, April 24, 2011 1:02:30 PM
Kenyan Parliament Running Out of Time

The vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act is due to be amended after the appointment of a nine-member board to screen judicial officials aborted this week, standardmedia.co.ke


Without the amendment a repeat process to select the board to investigate the conduct of judges and magistrates to assess their suitability to continue serving in the Judiciary would violate the timelines in the Act.

"Timelines for setting up the (Judges and Magistrates Vetting) Board have been breached. We need to expand those deadlines," Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairperson Mohammed Abdikadir told The Standard on Sunday.

The proposed amendment was agreed on at a meeting on Thursday evening, involving the MPs’ committee, Attorney General Amos Wako, top Government officials, Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, and the Kenya Law Reform Commission, convened to resolve the delay in processing Bills.

MPs are racing against time to pass some 27 Bills in the next four months that the Constitution requires are enacted within a year.

These include a Bill on the Supreme Court that the meeting agreed should be passed by mid-June.

According to the Constitution, the Supreme Court should be established by August – within one year of the effective date of the new Constitution but that may not be realised.

The delay in vetting judges is a setback to urgent reforms in the Judiciary, which the Government is banking on to challenge the admissibility of International Criminal Court proceedings against six Kenyans.

In the application before The Hague-based court, the Government argues the five months to the confirmation of charges are sufficient to record progress in reforming the Judiciary, the police, and prove capacity to sustain local trials.

Had the selection been without a hitch, the board would have been established by the end of next month, 60 days after the March 29 advertisement calling for applications.

The vetting of judges and magistrates could have begun in August; two months after the board had put its house in order. The law requires vetting of judicial officials completed in one year.


Maturity period


To hasten enactment of Bills, stakeholders agreed that a joint session involving ministries generating the Bills, the Attorney General, Kenya Law Reform Commission, and CIC would discuss the final draft(s)- cutting out the back-and-forth between institutions.

Abdikadir said Cabinet would have at most two weeks to approve a Bill for publication.

Parliament would shorten the maturity period upon publication – normally two weeks – to facilitate faster introduction in the House.

In the new calendar MPs are supposed to debate and pass some 27 Bills within two weeks after their publication dates.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga had advertised the vacancies for the board, through a gazette notice published on March 29.

This set off a sequence of events with fixed timelines culminating in parliamentary approval and appointment by President. Those timelines, however, have now been pushed further because of the delay to constitute the board.

Even with the impasse, judges and magistrates now have two months to do some soul-searching on the fate of their careers.

The Act, which was gazetted on March 22, says the judicial officials should within three months of its commencement, decide whether they would submit to vetting or leave the judicial service voluntarily.

The process to recruit the board members collapsed because it was destined to violate both the Constitution and the Act.

Consequently, the selection committee did not proceed to consider the applications and advised the Government to make necessary amendments to the Act.

There were only four applications for the post of chairperson of the board and six for members of the board.

This made it impossible to select three candidates qualified for appointment as chairperson and 18 candidates – at least six lawyers – as members of the board as the Act requires.

Moreover, nearly all the applicants were men defeating the constitutional requirement a third of the board members should be women.

During the Thursday crisis meeting, participants raised a red flag at the few applications by women for public appointments.

"There is a misconception that there are some special positions reserved for women, which partly explains why very few women have expressed interest in jobs advertised so far," said CIOC vice-chairman Millie Odhiambo.


Ethnic diversity


She added Parliament would also review the vetting to encourage women to apply.

The Act stipulates the board should reflect the country’s regional and ethnic diversity.

The Public Service Commission made public the decision to call off the recruitment this week in an advertisement appearing in local dailies.

Application had closed on April 12, while the PSC had convened the eight-member selection committee on April 14.

The independent board shall consist of six Kenyans and three foreigners. They are to be appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister.

The Act states the vetting is done within a year, but the National Assembly may, on the request of the board, extend the period for not more than one year.

Judges of the Court of Appeal and the High Court are to be vetted within three months and magistrates within six months. Appeals shall be finalised within one month.

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