MPs call for views on CJ nominee Martha Koome ahead of vetting

Chief Justice (CJ) nominee Martha Koome will be vetted by MPs on May 13, in a make or break exercise that will have the final say on her quest to succeed Justice David Maraga.

In a gazette notice dated April 30, 2021, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai has invited members of the public to share their submissions in support or against her nomination by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Koome will be vetted by the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) chaired by Muturi Kigano, Member of Parliament for Kangema.

“Pursuant to the provisions of section 6(4) of the public appointments (Parliamentary Approval Act No 33 of 2011) the general public is hereby notified that the Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs shall conduct approval hearing (vetting) of the nominee for appointment as the Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya and the President of the Supreme Court on Thursday, May 13, 2021 in the mini chamber, County Hall,” states the notice.

“Now, therefore… the committee invites interested members of the public to submit any representations they may have, by written statements (affidavits) with supporting evidence on the suitability or otherwise of the nominee for appointment to the office,” it adds.

Koome will be required to bring her clearance certificates by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Higher Education Loans Board, Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Registrar of Political Parties.

Her journey to becoming the first female Chief Justice began in earnest on Wednesday after President Uhuru Kenyatta submitted her name to Parliament for vetting and approval.

Consequently, Speaker Justin Muturi directed the committee to fast-track the process, citing public interest in the position.

Although the committee and the House have 28 days to make a decision on the matter, Muturi requested the team to prioritise.

The committee is expected to receive the views, conduct the vetting and prepare a report for tabling in the House by May 25 for debate.

The vetting is the next hurdle for the Lady Justice after the rigorous interviews by the JSC.

According to constitutional lawyer Kibe Mungai, it is only halfway for Justice Koome in her journey to the top of the Judiciary given that Parliament is likely to consider other factors not taken into consideration by the JSC.

“The vetting in Parliament will be more of a political decision although they will still have to consider her qualifications and experience. They will also test the broad acceptance of the new CJ before the final decision to approve or reject her nomination,” said Mungai.

Parliament’s Standing Orders provide that the committee should notify Justice Koome and the public of the time and place of holding the approvals which should happen within the given 28 days.

“Although the committee has 28 days to consider and make a decision on the nomination of Justice Koome, they should consider it on a priority basis in view of the compelling public interest and the unique place of the office of the Chief Justice,” said Muturi.

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