What’s the truth on DPP’s withdrawal of graft cases?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 00:01 | By
Civil society caucus now wants DPP removed from office for ineptitude
DPP Noordin Haji. PHOTO/Courtesy

Last week, Kenyans were shocked at media reports indicating the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had withdrawn corruption cases of high public interest, some involving individuals being considered for Executive positions in the new government, without proper justification to the public.

A contravention of the principle of transparency and accountability to the public, especially in ensuring regard to public interest, the interests of the administration of justice and the need for DPP to prevent and avoid abuse of the legal process. Further reports of other cases in court being reviewed have further raised eyebrows coming at this critical point of the political transition in the country.

The DPP, inasmuch as is an independent institution, does not have blanket unilateral power to file and drop cases as it so wishes but must be guided by the law and the Constitution.

 The DPP, similar to every other public servant, acts on delegated power from the people of Kenya that must be exercised in the public interest and in utmost good faith. This is an overriding interest that must guide the DPP in every decision including whether to file or drop a case. As such, it will be prudent for the DPP to lay bare justifications behind the instantaneous withdrawal of graft charges against certain high-profile individuals.

Some of the individuals being exonerated from corruption charges are currently undergoing vetting or interviews for public appointment.

Aisha Jumwa, whose Sh19 million graft charge was withdrawn, is a Cabinet nominee, while Ken Tarus, the former Kenya Power Managing Director,  whose corruption case was also withdrawn is among those shortlisted by the Public Service Commission for a Principal Secretary position.

Withdrawal of the cases and charge in the case of Jumwa, is therefore a clear mockery of the leadership and integrity tenets enshrined in Chapter Six of the Constitution.

For when Kenyans cast their ballot for this Constitution in 2010, personal integrity and the attainment of moral and ethical requirements as prescribed by the Constitution became key criteria for the election or selection of individuals to public office.

The ethical threshold set by the  Constitution stops anyone that has been accused of any breaches from holding public office – as these then go against Chapter Six of the Constitution and fail to bring honour to, and demean the office held.

 Once one is accused, aspersions are cast on his or her person, regardless of the principle of presumption of innocence. While everyone is entitled to fair hearing, it trumps public interest that one who has been accused of corruption or other criminal offences, should be given a ticket to public office or continue serving in public office when they have a case to answer.

Our laws require suspected criminals to go through a complete trial process in the courts to ascertain their guilt or innocence, and DPP’s prosecutorial mandate is a key cog in the process. 

In fact, the DPP has been on record on several occasions stating that his office only files charges in court when fully satisfied the cases have met the evidential threshold to secure a conviction which in criminal cases must be beyond reasonable doubt.

It can therefore be justifiably assumed that prior to the filing of the aforementioned cases, the DPP was satisfied that criminal offences had been committed and were prosecutable.

 If this was the case, then why the zeal by the DPP to withdraw the cases at this stage and time when some of the individuals are being considered for public office, and even worse, without any justifiable reasons to the public?

DPPs failure to disclose the reasons behind the withdrawal of the graft cases leads to speculations on their commitment to the fight against corruption, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

The DPP must immediately supply Kenyans with detailed information on what elicited the decision to charge in the first place, and justification to withdraw the cases now.

—  The writer is the Executive Director, Transparency International

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