Decisions to withdraw cases against high-profile individuals came back to haunt Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji yesterday during his vetting for the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) position.
Mr Haji had a difficult time clearing his name over the withdrawal of cases when he appeared before the National Assembly’s Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committee.
Gilgil MP Martha Wangare challenged Mr Haji to explain why he had given Kenyans so much hope in the fight against corruption and other crimes, especially those involving the high and mighty, only to lose momentum.
“You have been on record saying that you have credible evidence to nail the suspects only to drop the cases citing lack of evidence. What has changed?” she asked. Ms Wangare also wanted to know if it was a weakness on his part to openly castigate former Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti for shoddy investigations.
High-profile individuals whose cases were withdrawn by Mr Haji include Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa, former Kenya Power CEOs Ben Chumo and Ken Tarus and current Kenya Revenue Authority chairman Anthony Mwaura.
However, Mr Haji said he took the decision to withdraw the charges independently after reviewing the evidence and with the court’s approval.
“We had problems with the way the evidence was passed to us. We discovered instances of evidence being tampered with and forged documents. You also realise that I was not alone, because ultimately the court has a role in deciding. In some cases the courts agreed with us, but in others they refused and the cases had to go ahead,” said Mr Haji.
But Ms Wangare was not satisfied. “Does this mean that your office did not have the opportunity to examine the evidence before the decision to charge was enforced?” she asked.
MP Caleb Amisi (Saboti) asked: “You just said that the decision to charge rests with your office, which means that you take responsibility for the cases in court. But in withdrawing the cases, you said that you were forced to charge people in court knowing that the evidence presented to you was not credible. How did this happen?”
In response, Mr Haji said that he had never admitted that he had been coerced into bringing weak cases to court. He told the committee that after reviewing the evidence presented to him by the investigators, he found that some of the investigations claimed to have been carried out were not.
Kitui County Woman Rep Irene Kasalu said while his resume qualified him for the job, his integrity remained questionable.
“The public does not trust you. You are known to always pass the buck to other government officials,” she said.
Mr Haji promised to professionalise the NIS to ensure that it is not a tool for political witch-hunting. “I will ensure that NIS operates within the confines of the law.”