The Star (Nairobi)

10 March 2014

Kenya: Mutunga Fights With Juniors Over Allowances

CHIEF Justice Willy Mutunga is embroiled in a fresh fight with junior judiciary officials over allowances of his security detail. The Finance and Human Resources directorates have been reluctant to implement a Judicial Service Commission resolution that Mutunga's bodyguards be given special "top up" allowances for extra work in guarding the CJ.

Judiciary sources said the officers had been getting Sh15,000 in meal allowances. However Mutunga proposed an additional Sh50,000 monthly "top up allowance."

Judiciary HR director Dismas Obondo and the new Finance Director Beatrice Kamau have however agonized over where to place the special top up allowance since there is an already existing meal allowance for similar purpose. They have delayed implementing the JSC resolution.

The delay provoked a sharp reprimand from Mutunga when he returned from abroad last week to find his security detail sulking. "I am sick and tired of this issue and its implementation. The history of it is really nauseating with implementation and withdraws of allowances featuring prominently with no explanation offered to the JSC and I," Mutunga fumed in an email.

Mutunga said Obondo and Kamau ought to inform the JSC and himself of their interpretation of the JSC resolution. He said he will take it "as gross insubordination" if he and the JSC are not informed of their interpretation.

"HR and Finance Directorates should always know, for whatever it is worth, that in my books the two directorates allowed the former CRJ to get away with unprofessional conduct while nobody from those directorates put up a professional argument," he said.

"I do not care what the allowances are called! All I would ask is to implement the JSC resolution and if it is illegal the JSC is told accordingly. That is respectful, professional, decent, and fair," he said.

In the email dated March 2, Mutunga said he took the issue of the allowances for his security detail to the JSC "because I am convinced they work odd hours, 24/7, and cannot be compared to the detail of judges who do not work 24/7."

"How can we claim to give justice to Kenyans when we cannot give it to those of our colleagues who are vulnerable and need explanation because every cent to them counts? This is really my last word on a matter that has gone on and on," he warned.

Mutunga was apparently irked by Obondo and Kamau going bureaucratic on the JSC resolution. The two merged "meal allowances" for the officers with their new "top-up allowance" ordered by JSC. However Obondo said that the two had to be combined so that there is no double payment of the same allowance.

Secondly, Obondo and Kamau embarked on a comparative study of allowances paid to similar officers in other arms of government. Obondo's deputy got a written confirmation of top-up allowances paid by Parliament to their police security and drivers and prepared a draft board paper. The paper was to be submitted to JSC for consideration and approval until Mutunga wrote his email.

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