Chris Kiptoo and Mohamed Daghar risk jail for keeping SGR contracts secret

Chris Kiptoo

Principal Secretary for National Treasury and Planning, Chris Kiptoo (left) and his counterpart in the Ministry of Transport Mohamed Daghar. They risk jail for keeping SGR contracts secret.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The High Court will give priority to hearing an application by two activists seeking to have the Principal Secretary for National Treasury and Planning, Chris Kiptoo, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Transport, Mohamed Daghar, cited for contempt of court.

Justice Olga Sewe said the contempt application would be given priority as it involved disobedience of court orders.

Khelef Khalifa and Wanjiru Gikonyo want the court to summon the two PSs to appear before it to show cause why they should not be jailed or punished for contempt of court. 

The court had ordered the government to provide the two activists with contracts relating to the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

It also issued an order declaring that the failure of the Attorney-General and principal secretaries in the Ministries of Transport and National Treasury to provide and publish the requested information was a violation of the right to access information.

The two activists also want the two PSs to be imprisoned for six months or punished in such manner as the court may determine for the alleged contempt of court.

“The respondents have deliberately disobeyed the orders of this court issued on May 16, 2022, despite having been served with the orders and decree,” part of the application states.

The applicants claim that they have made several follow-ups and reminders to the respondents to release the information sought and comply with the decree and orders of the court, but the respondents have persistently failed and refused to comply with the orders.

“The act of the respondent refusing to heed to the orders of the court is purely on the basis for the position which they presently hold and the interest of justice in the circumstances of the case may require the court to issue a suspended sentence, which will take effect immediately on the day they vacate offices in the public service,” the application states.

According to the applicants, the constitutional provisions on accountability are binding on all public officers.

They also argue that it is important that the respondents are held accountable for their actions while in office, including, where appropriate, being penalised for acts of contempt of court committed while in office and the penalty effected upon vacation of office where necessary.

Lawyer Willis Otieno, representing the applicants, had urged the court to hear the contempt application as a matter of priority.

The court had also issued a declaration that the respondents' failure to provide the requested information and publish it based on Khalifa's application dated December 16, 2019, was a breach of Article 10 of the Constitution.

The petitioners had argued that documents relating to the project and its financing had never been made public, despite it being the most expensive project undertaken by the government.

“The SGR is the largest capital-intensive infrastructure project ever constructed in the country, but despite this extraordinary expenditure of public funds, the project has been undertaken with controversy and secrecy from its inception,” they argued in their petition.

The petition is scheduled to be mentioned on March 14.