Sunday, July 19, 2009




By Alex Ndegwa

Kenya’s longest-serving Attorney General has been in a tight corner in recent times amid calls for his resignation.

The most scathing attack on Mr Amos Wako, who was appointed AG in 1991, came from UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings Philip Alston in February.

In calling for the resignation of the AG, the chief legal Government adviser, Prof Alston referred to him as the "embodiment of the phenomenon of impunity in Kenya".

The UN official claimed that the AG has not prosecuted suspects of the crime, including police bosses and officers.

Politicians and lobby groups have been eloquent in calling for the resignation of the AG, accusing him of failing to prosecute suspects of heinous crimes, including corruption — and when he does, he is not successful.

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) has, too, accused the AG’s office of frustrating the war against graft for allegedly sitting on its recommendations for prosecutions on Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg scandals.

Often, Wako has defended himself saying those with evidence against Though he has characteristically

But despite the pressure, it has not been all gloom for the man who is often referred to as the "smiling AG". Wako is laughing all the way to the bank after Parliament doubled His pay cheque was doubled last month Last month, Parliament approved new salaries for constitutional office holders that handed Wako and the Chief Justice a 100 per cent pay raise.

Under funding

Others who benefited from the substantial pay increase included the Controller and Auditor-General, judges, electoral and Public Service commissioners.

Under the new pay deal, the AG’s new salary will rise to nearly Sh1 million a month (exclusive of allowances), up from Sh531,650. And when allowances are added, the AG and CJ will take home up to Sh1.7 million a month if they have served for at least 10 years.

MPs led by Gichugu’s Martha Karua opposed the pay raise, arguing that not only was the timing wrong but also the salaries of low cadre officers were yet to be reviewed.

Attorney-General Amos Wako has told how under funding, poor pay and skeletal staff have frustrated his office, hoping to win sympathy of unrelenting critics of his performance.

Wako questioned the rationale of paying an investigator at the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) Sh300,000, while a prosecutor at the State Law Office (SLO) and magistrates get a paltry Sh40,000.

The AG said State lawyers are burdened with between 200 and 300 files on average to underline the workload in an attempt to shake off critics who have demanded his ouster for poor performance.

In a strong defence of his record, Wako compared the poor pay given to State counsel and the hefty salaries paid to legal officers in other Government institutions such as KACC whose officials get up to six times higher.

Low staff morale

He told the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs that the poor scheme of service, that did not provide for housing, medical cover or transport allowances, had led to low staff morale, pushed others out and turned away prospective employees, leaving him with skeletal staff.

According to a document the AG presented to the committee, a copy of which The Standard on Sunday obtained, the lowest paid State counsel in salary scale SL1 earns a minimum of Sh30,472 and a maximum of Sh40,835 a month.

The equivalent at KACC, Attorney II in grade 8, gets more than double — Sh100,000.

A senior State counsel in grade SL2 gets between Sh35, 275 and Sh45, 021 a month. But the KACC equivalent, Attorney 1 in grade 7, gets a basic pay of Sh200,000, more than four times. The gulf widens as you climb the ladder.

The highest paid State counsel, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in scale SL9, earns between Sh152, 060 and Sh302,980 compared to Sh1.8 million drawn by KACC deputy director.


At the Capital Markets Authority, the AG said, a legal officer 1, in the entry grade 7, receives a basic pay of Sh90,655, while the manager legal in grade 3 takes home Sh283, 226.

Due to the low pay, Wako noted, 105 State lawyers have left his office since 2004 for lucrative positions at better paying Government institutions such as KACC, Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), Kenya National Commission on Human Rights or private companies.

Exit of officers

He disclosed that since 2007, PSC has been recruiting legal counsel, entry grade PSC 10, whose basic salary is Sh57,433. Those in PSC 11 earn Sh63,114 exclusive of allowances.

Wako said three Senior State counsel left the legislative drafting department to join Parliament. Since 2007, the department has lost eight experienced draftsmen. The department drafts Government Bills.

The AG conceded the exit of the officers had crippled drafting services. Wako said his office needed 615 legal officers to adequately staff the seven departments and improve service delivery.

The bulk of this recruitment (497) will benefit the department of public prosecutions, which has come under fire for low conviction rates.

"For effective service delivery, salaries of legal staff in public service should be harmonised. It is not logical to pay an investigator at KACC Sh300,000 and Sh40,000 to the prosecutor and magistrates," Wako told the team headed by Mandera Central MP Mohammed Abdikadir.

The AG spoke during the scrutiny of SLO’s Sh1 billion budget at Continental House, Nairobi, last week, where he laid bare the sorry state of affairs at his office.

To underline the workload, Wako said an audit of cases conducted in March by lawyers at the Nairobi office shows that many have between 200 and 300 files, excluding new cases.

The Civil Litigation Department has 42 professional staff, nine based at five regional offices in Mombasa, Kisumu, Meru, Eldoret and Nyeri.

The nine handle 112 courts, High and subordinate ones, spread in these stations.

To express the seriousness of the matter, Wako said the two senior State counsel in Meru were expected to handle 1,800 pending cases at regional courts as at February.

The AG said the burden was growing as post-election violence claims are lodged.


"There are to date 100 suits filed in Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa and we project more will be instituted under the Constitutional Division," Wako said.

Suits have increased since the agitation for democratic changes began in the 1990s, he explained..

He said there is need to recruit more middle cadre professional staff — principal litigation and senior litigation counsel — to handle suits in different divisions of the High Court.

Further, the AG lobbied for more senior principal litigation counsel for regional offices, who can handle Court of Appeal and High Court cases.