Kenya: Nairobi County Clerk Jacob Ngwele Accused of Paralyzing Work at City Hall

30 November 2019

Nairobi — There was drama at the employment and labour relations court (ELRC) and tempers flared with lawyers and employees accusing the Clerk, Nairobi County Jacob Ngwele of frustrating payments of various services thereby grounding operations to a halt.

Ngwele was accused of absconding duty with lawyers Harrisson Kinyanjui and Cecil Miller saying he should not claim he has been barred from entering offices "yet he only shows up technically."

County workers who attended the hearing of a contempt application seeking to commit to jail the Speaker to the Nairobi City County Beatrice Elachi booed and heckled at Ngwele in open court accusing of carrying a gun and money in his socks.

ELRC Judge Onesmus Makau heard that Ngwele has not been going to the office despite being ordered to resume duty.

"Ngwele does not go to the office. He only pops in and out. His actions have grounded services since he has not paid the employees and vital services," Justice Makau heard.

Kinyanjui for Elachi and Miller for the County Assembly Services Board called for sanity as employees bayed for blood accusing Ngwele absconding duty.

Justice Makau asked Ngwele to stand up in court to explain why he has not been going to work as ordered on October 30, 2019. In response, Ngwele claimed his office has been closed and office equipment carted away, but lawyer Kinyanjui stood up saying the clerk was misleading the court. "I personally went to police to get the court orders implemented and ensured Ngwele resumed duty," Kinyanjui.

Ngwele changed tact saying, " I can work from anywhere. I don't have to be in an office. I can work from anywhere."

The Judge subsequently ordered Ngwele to effect payments for all employees and for all other services by the close of business yesterday amd directed Monicah Muthami the holder of Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) credentials to operationalize the computer systems.

"I direct that you effect payments for the employees and other services today (yesterday). Be escorted by police back to your office and continue with your work," Justice Makau ordered Ngwele.

Justice Makau gave the orders after hearing a petition by Ngwele to have Elachi committed to jail for defying a court order lifting the suspension of the clerk. Kinyanjui and Miller told the judge the contempt application is fatally defective as it was filed under the wrong rules and "the application only fits a dismissal."

Kinyanjui argued in a preliminary objection that the application by Ngwele did not adhere to the law since it was filed as a Notice of Notion instead of an Application Notice. He also contended that the application was not personally served on Elachi as required by law and that the Attorney General should have been named as a party then served with the application.

Miller who also opposed the case told Justice Makau that an application of contempt must set out specific grounds and have them listed numerically. "Contempt of court proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature since the liberty of a person is at stake. Standard of proof is higher than in a civil case," Miller told court.

Justice Makau directed him to report back to work immediately and perform his functions since he had accorded him police protection.

Ngwele had sued Speaker Elachi and the Nairobi County Assembly Board for disobeying a court order by suspending and sending him on a one-month compulsory leave, and thereafter appointing Monica Muthami Acting Clerk on October 30.

Interested parties in the case are the Orange Democratic Movement, Jubilee Party, ousted Majority Leader Abdi Guyo, Maurice Gari and Mark Ndung'u.

On Monday, the court directed police officers in charge of Parliament Police Station and the security of the Government Building Unit to ensure that Ngwele has unhindered access to his office.

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