AG Kihara Kariuki/ Facebook
NAIROBI Kenya, Dec 14- Contract breaches, unlawful dismissals, human right violations and other legal disputes emanating from unlawful decisions made by government officers may cost taxpayers Sh112 billion.
An analysis of budget reports for the forthcoming year shows that ministries, departments, agencies and corporations run by the state were slapped with Sh10.8 billion more legal awards during the financial year ended June 2021 in addition to over Sh101.2 billion, which had accumulated prior years.
This highlights a growing burden on taxpayers despite Attorney-General Paul Kihara writing that accounting officers in 2020 should carefully negotiate and vet contracts before signing to minimise lawsuits.
The documents show that the government has paid Sh2.39 billion, or 2.13 percent, of the total bills.
The Health ministry accounts for Sh41.93 billion, or 37.49 percent, of the cumulative court awards followed by the Department for Broadcasting with Sh40.08 billion.
While the awards for the Health ministry involve many cases between 1999-2020, the bulk of the bill for the Broadcasting department is due to an ongoing legal suit between Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and Dubai-based businessman Ajay Sheth, owner of Channel 2 Group Corporation.
The potential award against KBC follows the termination of a 2006 contract that the State broadcaster had with Channel 2- whose holding firm is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands- in 2009 without notice.
“This case has not been determined, however. The process is going on in London,” the Department for Broadcasting stated in the budget report, adding that it has paid Sh200 million.
The unlawful decisions by officers have become a major liability to the exchequer, with the awards now a key driver of pending bills for the national and county governments.
The Budget and Appropriation Committee of the National Assembly earlier in the year estimated potential compensation for ongoing litigation in local and international courts at about Sh1.2 trillion from just over Sh809 billion in 2019.
AG Kihara has in the past said that government officers who make unlawful decisions should be penalised to mitigate the rising burden on taxpayers.
“The tendency with government officials to have a ‘Laissez-faire’ attitude in making unlawful decisions should be strongly discouraged and such officers penalised accordingly,” the AG wrote in a publication by the State Law Office in 2020.
“This reduces the mentality amongst government officials that an offense so committed it is the government, which is the defendant and not the officer as a person.”
Kenya had last year engaged about 700 lawyers from the State Law Office to battle a huge backlog of cases in both local and international courts.