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EDITORIAL: Unnecessary financial burdens hurt taxpayers

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Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Supreme Court’s finding that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAC) must pay a private airline Sh1.3 billion for irregularly suspending its licence, though representing the true workings of the wheels of justice, is worrying.

It is only the latest reminder of the high cost that the Kenyan taxpayer continues to bear because of arbitrary, and often illegal actions of senior bureaucrats drunk with power of high office.

In this particular case, KCAA was found to have withdrawn the airline’s operating licence following a 2003 air crash without due process.

The airline, after failing to persuade the regulator to refrain from the punitive action, went to court in pursuit of justice. The High Court found that the airline’s licence had been illegally suspended. The Court of Appeal upheld the judgment after the KCAA appealed. KCAA moved to the highest court in the land seeking a reversal of the award. It did not succeed.

For starters, at the core of this case that took more than 10 years to get through the justice system, was KCAA’s refusal to give the airline a copy of the official report of a commission of inquiry that investigated the crash.

It defied the court order and kept the report to itself. It was assumed that the report formed the basis upon which the regulator took the punitive decision. But alas! That appears not have been the case.

That is not enough. The reason this agency is going to pay the private airline so much money is the stubbornness of its officials. Wallowing in some false bravado that they cannot be challenged while acting in their capacity as regulators, KCAA drew out the legal battle through the entire court system attracting heavy legal fees it has now been ordered to pay the plaintiff.

And as the courts clearly stated, merely declaring that a decision has been taken in public interest does give public officials grounds for arbitrary action.

It is time government officials became conscious of the fact that the taxpayers can no longer put up with these unnecessary financial burdens.

Perhaps it is time to bring into force the constitutional requirement that public officials who cause loss of funds be made to pay for it whether they are in or out of office.

That way bureaucrats apply some diligence and thoughts before taking any action that is out of tune with the law.

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