BY SAM ALFAN.
It is a permanent reprieve for nine officials of the Turkana County Government.
This is after nine top officials escaped prosecution by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in connection with alleged irregular award of road rehabilitation and construction contracts.
High Court Judge Stephen Riechi, sitting in Lodwar, prohibited the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko and the EACC from proceeding with investigations or recommendations for the proposed criminal charges against Roads Executive Tioko Logiron and eight members of the County tender committee.
The Judge said it was irrational and unreasonable for the anti-graft agency to have initiated the probe over the county’s road construction tenders following an anonymous complaint and then demanded documents from the officials to justify the investigations.
It was an abuse of the legal process and discretion for the EACC to have forwarded their recommendations to the DPP to press criminal charges upon failure to ascertain the allegations, he said.
Justice Riechi upheld submissions by lawyer Philip Nyachoti, for the aggrieved officials, that the recommendations by the DPP, dated January 15, last year, that the officials should be charged with abuse of office, failure to comply with procurement regulations and unlawful acquisition of public property, were baseless and malicious.
The decision violated the constitutional rights of the officials, he said in a 47-page ruling.
The Judge quashed the formal demand made by the EACC on March 11, last year, seeking contract documents from the county officials and interviews with prospective witnesses. The officials had explained that they were not in possession of any paperwork regarding the tenders since all the formal contracts were in lawful custody of the county government, he noted.
Nyachoti had argued that EACC had conducted independent investigations and publicly acknowledged that only in Turkana and Tana River counties where bribes were not demanded or solicited for before services were rendered. He had protested that that action taken against the county officials amounted to intimidation and harassment.
In July last year, the Eldoret Senior Principal Magistrate C. Obulutsa suspended the intended criminal charges against the officials. He had directed that cash bails deposited by two officials be refunded to them since seven other officials had not been formally served with summons to enter an appearance before the court.