12 August 2018

Kenya: Order On Corruption Cases Delay Welcome

editorial

Justice David Maraga's declaration this week that courts will not tolerate superfluous adjournments on corruption cases is spot on.

This is vital because the Judiciary occupies a vantage point in the war against graft. Expeditious, efficient, and fair adjudication on corruption sends the right signal to the nation.

All the cases ought to be heard and disposed of swiftly and the culprits sentenced. That is the surest way of ending the vice. Courts must make the statement that corruption has no place here.

We are coming from an ignominious past, where corruption cases found complete shelter in the courts.

ADJOURNMENTS

Scheming lawyers, working with judicial officers, crafted plans to tie cases in court for years through spurious adjournments and all sorts of applications until the public lost interest in them.

Worse, some cases are tied with politics, bringing in intricate webs and pressures that undermine the rule of law.

Some of the high profile political cases such as Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing, stand unresolved to date despite several submissions in courts.

In recent years, the first National Youth Service scandal where a whooping Sh791 million was lost, is yet to the concluded.

We have come a long way though. The Judiciary has expanded and set up independent courts to deal with corruption and therefore raised the confidence that it can quickly deal with such matters.

SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

However, quick resolution of graft matters is underpinned by other factors. First and paramount, the investigations must be water-tight.

There must be sufficient evidence to sustain the prosecution. Quite often, corruption charges drag because of shoddy investigations.

Moreover, the deficiencies are sometimes intentional. Some investigators go into the cases with an endgame in sight - submit weak evidence and thereafter seek adjournments and drag the suits.

Second, some cases are politicised such that investigations and subsequent arraignment in court are done with the objective of making a political statement.

DERAIL PROCEEDINGS

Investigations are hurried and when the matter is presented in court, it is found short of triable evidence and forcing several adjournments that end up prolonging the determination.

Third, lawyers have perfected the trick of making adjournment applications to derail the proceedings.

Thus, it is incumbent on the magistrates and judges to keep a tight leash on the lawyers. Those coming to court unprepared or creating side-shows must be tackled.

FIGHTS BACK

But the test of Justice Maraga's directive depends on how the courts respond. Corruption always fights back and the Judiciary is never immune.

It would be critical for the courts to create a log of the cases, indicating when they were filed, speed of disposal and quality of the rulings. In short, Justice Maraga requires a system to monitor enforcement of the directive.

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