13 April 2018

Kenya: Judges Get New Premises After Radiation Saga

Plans are afoot to move Court of Appeal judges to a new building in Nairobi, four years after they rejected new premises in Upper Hill, Nairobi.

The judges were informed that suitable land had been identified and an architect from the Judiciary would be sharing designs for the proposed building this week.

"The Judiciary has requisitioned for initial funding to commence the work in the new fiscal year (2018/2019).

"Judges and staff spend long hours at the office, often with poor quality equipment and less than adequate office accommodation," Justice William Ouko, the President of the Court of Appeal, told judges in Mombasa.

HEALTH

The judge, who was recently elected president of the court, outlined his vision for the country's second highest court.

Judges of the Court of Appeal were to move to Elgon Place in 2013, but they refused, arguing that the building was emitting radioactive material, which could be harmful to their health.

Appeals court hit by shortage of judges

By his memo dated September 11, 2013, then-President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Kihara, told all appellate judges to move to Elgon Place not later than September 17, 2013.

But the judges declined to move in.

The building remained unoccupied for a while as the judges debated about possible radioactive material.

Documents tabled before Parliament showed that the Judiciary paid more than Sh70 million for the premises that were never occupied.

LEASE AGREEMENT

The documents showed that the tender committee approved the award to Knight Frank (K) Ltd, agents of Sealink Holdings Ltd, the owners of the building, for the lease of 34,400 square feet at a monthly charge of Sh4,204,638 (annually: Sh50,455,667).

But according to the duly signed lease agreements between the Judiciary and Sealink Holdings, the Judiciary leased 47,890 square feet at a monthly charge of Sh5,845,633 (annually: Sh70,147,605).

The Judicial Tender Committee also awarded direct procurement of fit-outs at Elgon Place at a cost of Sh188,059,723.

The committee defended itself, arguing that the lease of Elgon Place was done through open tendering.

On October 2, 2012, the Judiciary advertised for lease of office space in national newspapers and on its website.

NEMA

The building was owned by Sealink Holdings, a company associated with Razak Patel; one of the directors.

As the judges debated whether to move in, the Judiciary called in the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) to give an independent opinion.

Nema did an impact assessment and ruled out radiation as a reason for non-occupation of the building.

Then-Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei also sought a professional opinion from the Communications Commission of Kenya, which gave the building a clean bill of health.

It now appears the judges want to be housed away from the Supreme Court building.

WELFARE

During the meeting in Mombasa, the judges discussed the vision of the court, including reducing case backlog, digitisation, judicial ethics, court management and mediation, as well as emerging and conflicting jurisprudence in labour-related issues.

Justice Ouko promised personal improvement and welfare of judges and staff of the court.

"More often, as we plan the direction and destiny of the court, we focus more on judges.

"Yet it can be very difficult for judges to fulfil their roles efficiently without quality support," he said.

He said personal improvement and the welfare of judges and staff would be key priorities of his leadership, as he promised to work with Chief Justice David Maraga to ensure judges' post-retirement medical insurance, pension and other benefits are reviewed and enhanced.

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