State owes Kenyans Sh809b in unpaid court awards, MPs told
The State Law Office owes Kenyans a whopping Sh809 billion in unpaid court awards, it was revealed yesterday.
Solicitor-General Ken Ogeto lamented that the office, headed by Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki faces a serious cash crunch which has seen it unable to pay claimants, among them former political detainees the awards running close to Sh 1 billion, as at May last year.
Ogeto told MPs that the office of the Attorney-General and Department of Administrative Justice had, at the end of May 2019, analysed ongoing cases and arbitrations with quantifiable claims as having a potential liability exposure to the Government of Sh809,938,412,173.
“We have to admit that some of these cases would have been successfully defended and bills minimised if we had facilitation.
Our assurance must be that with these additional resources, we must endeavour to do all we can to ensure that the performance of our constitutional and statutory duties to the government and the public run with clockwork precision,” said Ogeto.
Ogeto spoke while flagging off 16 vehicles and 62 desktop computers to regional offices.
The vehicles and computers will be delivered to 12 regional offices in Meru, Kisumu, Kisii, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Embu, Nyeri, Mombasa, Kilifi, Nakuru and Kwale.
Among persons owed the cash include the family of multi-party hero Kenneth Matiba which is still waiting for compensation that has risen to over Sh1 billion.
The one-time opposition leader who has since died was awarded Sh945 million for his unlawful detention in the early 1990s and collapsed business empire as well as interest dating from the suit was filed in 2014.
The amount has been accruing monthly penalties on delayed pay even as the government fights off additional claim of Sh135 million from the lawyers of the deceased for legal fees related to the multi-billion shilling suit.
Also owed money by the State is Matiba’s colleague in the struggle for the second liberation, Charles Wanyoike Rubia, who was awarded Sh26 million for the suffering he endured at the hands of the Kanu regime under the late President Moi for his role in the struggle.
Rubia, who died aged 95 on December 23 last year, was seeking Sh40 billion compensation from the government for the suffering he underwent and business losses.
But Justice Weldon Korir awarded him Sh26 million, saying the amount he had sought was not backed by any local decision or decree.
Speaking yesterday, Ogeto said the financial constraints had hampered its ability to discharge its mandate as the government’s chief legal advisor.
He added that lack of funding had seen it lose many cases filed against the state in various courts across the country.
Ogeto said apart from challenges occasioned by lack of office equipment, State law offices across the country have faced logistical challenges relating to attendance of court sessions.
“As the government’s principal lawyer, we are tasked with a great burden, one that needs considerable resources to undertake.
With as high as 3,000 cases filed against the government every year,” Ogeto said.