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Kenyans Furious Over Re-Appointment of Anti-Corruption Czar

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki re-appointed the controversial head of the country's anti-corruption commission on Monday, bypassing both an advisory board and Parliament in a move critics are calling illegal. The anti-corruption czar has been heavily criticized for failing to tackle any serious corruption case during his tenure.

The director of Kenya's anti-corruption commission is the government's highest paid civil servant, earning $35,000 more per year than the nation's president.

The move to re-appoint Aaron Ringera as anti-corruption head is coming under fire, not just because he is considered by critics as largely ineffective, but also because the president's action bypassed the set legal avenue for filling the position.

According to the anti-corruption bill passed in 2003, the nomination for the position must come from an independent advisory board institutionally separated from the executive. The nominee is then to pass into the hands of Parliament, which has the power to approve or reject the appointment.

But members of the anti-corruption commission's advisory board say they were not consulted in the re-appointment, and the president's action late Monday similarly sidestepped Parliament.

Kenyan lawyer and former member of parliament Paul Muite says the president overstepped his legal bounds.

"The president clearly does not have the powers to do this re-appointing," he noted. "I personally participated in the drafting of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. The president's action is simply inviting a showdown between the advisory board and Parliament on the one hand, and the president on the other."

The advisory board has already announced that it will continue with its recruitment and interview process for the director of the commission. It plans on submitting its recommendations to Parliament for approval, as the law dictates.

The chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, Okong'o Omogeni, who also sits on the anti-corruption commission's advisory board, said any new director recommended by the board will have to agree to a significant pay cut.

"The terms and conditions of the service of the director and assistant directors should be determined by the advisory board," Omogeni said. "As a board we have already met and agreed anybody who is coming on board to those positions, whether the current director or any other director, will take a pay cut of 35 percent. And that will remain the position of the board."

Ringera has defended his job as anti-corruption czar by claiming he has not been given sufficient powers to fully prosecute high level officials.

Muite says the anti-corruption head should not be given more prosecutorial powers, but less. He says the current system practically ensures no senior government official will ever face justice for stealing state funds.

"Actually in a functioning democracy the investigator should not be the one to also prosecute. The investigator should take the report to an independent person to evaluate and say whether objectively somebody should be prosecuted," he said.

Ringera was one of four senior Kenyan officials who is reported to have been criticized for obstructing the implementation of key reforms. No senior Kenyan official has been prosecuted by the anti-corruption body under Ringera's leadership.