Two PSs risk jail for failing to publicise SGR contracts

The High Court will prioritise hearing an application by two activists seeking to have National Treasury and Planning Principal Secretary​ Chris Kiptoo and his Transport counterpart Mohamed Daghar censured for contempt of court.

Justice Olga Sewe said the application for contempt will be prioritised since it involves disobedience of court orders.

Khelef Khalifa and Wanjiru Gikonyo want the court to issue summonses to the two to appear before it to show cause why they should not be committed to jail or penalised for contempt of court.

The court had ordered the government to provide the two activists with agreements related to the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line project.

It also issued an order declaring that failure by the Attorney General, Principal Secretaries in the Ministries of Transport and National Treasury to provide the information sought and publicise it would be a violation of the right to access information.

The two activists also want the two PSs to be committed to jail for six months or penalised on such terms as the court may determine for the alleged contempt of court.

“The respondents have deliberately disobeyed the orders of this court issued on May 16 2022 despite having been served with the orders and decree,” part of the application states.

The applicants claim that they have made several reminders with the respondents to release the information sought and to comply with the decree and orders of the court but they (respondents) have persistently failed to act in obedience of the orders.

“The act of the respondent refusing to heed to the orders of the court is purely on the basis for the position which they presently hold and the interest of justice in the circumstances of the case may require the court to issue a suspended sentence which will take effect immediately on the day they vacate offices in the public service,” the application states.

According to the applicants, the constitutional provisions on accountability are binding on all public officers.

They also argue that it is important that the respondents be held accountable for their actions while in office including where appropriate be penalised for acts of contempt of court committed (while in office) and the penalty effected upon vacation of office where necessary.

Lawyer Willis Otieno representing the applicants had urged the court to give priority hearing to the application for contempt.

The court had also issued a declaration that the failure by the respondents to provide information sought and also to publicise it in on the basis of Khalifa’s request dated December 16, 2019, is a violation of Article 10 of the constitution.

The petitioners had argued that documents related to the project and its financing have never been made public despite it being the most expensive project done by the government.

“SGR is the largest capital-intensive infrastructure project ever constructed in the country, but despite this extraordinary expenditure of public funds, the project has been undertaken with controversy and secrecy from its inception,” they argued in their petition.

The application has been fixed for mention on March 14.

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