NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 – It was a moment of honour for the ‘rejected stone’ that now has become the ‘cornerstone’ of protecting and implementing the Constitution.
Keriako Tobiko – whose appointment to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution had been robustly challenged in court – was being awarded the Outstanding Public Service Award, sponsored by the National Civil Society Congress.
“It sounds rather ironic that about four years down the line, civil society organisations themselves are seated here having invited me as one of the seven nominees of the most outstanding public servant,” he said causing prolonged laughter from the audience.
His office was also voted the best in a competitive race between seven government agencies that managed to reach the final list for exemplary work at the public sector from an initial list of 53.
The congress coordinator Suba Churchill, who admitted to being part of those who were against Tobiko’s appointment, applauded the ODPP for establishing effective mechanism for Kenyans to file complaints among a set of other measures.
“We settled on an office that is seeking to address areas that have traditionally been ignored including gender based violence,” Churchill pointed out.
“We settled on an office that has increased its staffing beyond imagination in the shortest time it has been in the office since inauguration of the new Constitution.”
The outstanding offices were nominated by members of the public in a survey carried out in all parts of the country.
His office was voted the best for “demonstrating a deliberate and a conscious attempt to revamp from its perceived dilapidated self to acquire a new outlook.”
Tobiko was praised for decentralising the services of his office to all parts of the country, embracing change and for establishing thematic areas to address emerging issues.
Receiving the awards, Tobiko urged lobby groups to continue speaking against any interference of independent offices as they execute their constitutional mandate.
Tobiko said the awards will motivate his team more so now that the country is facing massive corruption challenges but regretted the war has been politicised.
“Government and civil society are not competitors…the civil society has a great role to play in ensuring government performs its role. It has an oversight role,” he said.
He lamented that the independence of the constitutional institutions. “It’s coming under attack day in day out from MCAs, in Parliament, from government ministers themselves; I think it is important that the civil society protect the independence of these institutions.”
The ODPP has of late come under sharp attack more so from the Opposition for allegedly defending senior government officials accused of corruption.
“The Constitution requires the DPP to make a decision on whether to charge a person or not… based only on concrete, actionable and cogent evidence and the law. Not rumours and speculation,” he asserted.
Other finalists of the award were CIC chairperson Charles Nyachae, Controller of Budget chairperson Agnes Odhiambo, Auditor General Edward Ouko, Attorney General Githu Muigai, Ombudsman Otiende Amollo, and Salaries and Remuneration Commission Chairperson Sarah Serem.
Serem on her part said the award will help in promoting and protecting people’s rights while pointing out ‘numerous’ challenges her commission continues to face.
“In the past three years, my friends have come to me and said they didn’t think I’m this type of a woman. The interests of this country are more important than your personal interests.”
To the Ombudsman, the ultimate victor was accountability, the civil society and constitutional commissions.
“The fact that you have found it necessary to form a mechanism to have a system not just for condemnation, reminds all of us despite being appointed, being protected in terms of tenure, serving for a particular period, we must be accountable,” he said.
“This is a system of commendation that will keep on reminding us that we have to be accountable to the people.”
He noted that the mere fact that government officials were interacting with the civil society freely; it was a win on their part.