Court battle lifts lid on passport scandal - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 22 December 2019

Court battle lifts lid on passport scandal

A stamped Kenyan passport.
Senior civil servants in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government are facilitating Nigerian nationals to acquire birth certificates, identity cards and Kenyan passports and to adopt local names, a court case revealed.
The scam that had been kept under wraps by the ministry was thrown into the limelight by two separate court decisions where former employees sought compensation for wrongful dismissal.
Even as the Employment and Labour Court went ahead to award the former employees for wrongful termination, the scandal handed many foreigners citizenship.
“There was no basis for the claimants’ dismissal from public service. The fact that things went wrong did not lay automatic blame on them. Causation was not established and the court finds that there was no reason at all for the severe disciplinary action taken against the claimants,” ruled Justice Linnet Ndolo.
Together with Justice Byram Ongaya, the judges ruled that the dismissal of the two employees, Mr Hilton Waweru Kariuki and Josephat Maina Gacheru, was unfair and ordered that they be compensated.
The third employee, Mr Samuel Mwanzia Wambua, was summarily dismissed and lost all his benefits.
The judges further observed that apart from an exchange of correspondence, Mr Kariuki and Mr Gacheru were not afforded an opportunity to be heard as required by the Employment Act.
“For the foregoing reasons, I award each of the claimants 12 months’ salary in compensation by taking into account their length of service as well as the respondent’s irregular conduct in effecting the dismissal,” said the judges.
Mr Kariuki was given Sh499,000 plus an additional one-month salary and full benefits together with his unpaid salary from the date of interdiction to the date of dismissal.
Similarly, Mr Gacheru was handed 12 months’ salary of Sh713,952, one month salary of Sh59,496 and full pension benefits.
The two had been accused of facilitating the irregular issuance of Kenyan birth certificates to two Nigerians, Mr John Chidi Ani alias John Kimani Mathai and Mr Jeremiah Obika Okwuoma alias Jeremiah Wambua Kilonzo, which in turn led to their acquisition of Kenyan passports.
The court heard Mr Kariuki was employed in 1977 and held various positions until he was deployed as senior registrar at Civil Registration Division.
He was sacked for allegedly issuing a Nigerian with a birth certificate without interrogating the supporting documents.
But in his defence, Mr Kariuki said he followed due procedure in issuing “Mr Jeremiah Wambua Kilonzo” with a birth certificate after scrutinising documents presented to him.
The government said his failure to authenticate the documents had facilitated one Mr Okwuoma alias Jeremiah Wambua Kilonzo, who was a Nigerian national, to fraudulently acquire a birth certificate and a passport.
He argued he relied on several documents, including an original Kenyan ID in the name of the applicant and went ahead to check the authenticity of the identity card in the e-citizen portal. He maintained that his dismissal was unlawful and unfair.
Mr Gacheru said he was employed in August 1982 and by the time he was sacked, had risen to become a senior civil registrar.
The court heard that he was interdicted on the ground of irregularly issuing a birth certificate to Mr Ani alias John Kimani Mathai. But he said he relied on a baptismal certificate issued on April 4, 1999 and signed by Rev Mark Kamore of CPK St Monica Parish on behalf of the church and which he authenticated.
The third official, Mr Mwanzia, who was employed in 1978, was dismissed after a Ministerial Human Resource Management Advisory Committee meeting recommended his dismissal.
Mr Mwanzia, a fingerprint officer II, was accused of facilitating issuance of an identification card to a foreigner who was overage. The committee noted that the misconduct was serious and touched on state security.
It was alleged that he facilitated the issuance of the ID to Mr Ani in the name of John Kimani Mathai at Kariokor Registration Office in Nairobi by entering his name in the “Not Previously Registered Persons’ (NPR) Register.
The court heard that he failed to explain to the investigators the misconduct and was unable to produce the register at the time of the questioning.
Mr Wambua said he was denied all his benefits accrued over 36 years of service.
Justice Ongaya ruled that his dismissal was unfair because he was sacked on account of failure to vet the overage applicant but it was the duty of the Registrar to refer such an applicant for vetting. According to the judges, the main culprit in the whole scam, according to the evidence table in court, was one Mr Luke Omollo, a District Registration Officer who was retired in the public interest.

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