How Sally Kosgei’s bid to give husband plum US job cost the State
On October 14, 1999, Kenya’s ambassador to the United States, Mr Samson Chemai, received a letter from Nairobi advising him to return immediately.
There were no reasons given to terminate his contract midway in a letter written by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sally Kosgei.
All the letter stated was that he was required to be in Nairobi by November 15, 1999.
Upon arrival, Mr Chemai reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters where Dr Kosgei not only refused to give him any audience but also stopped all his emoluments and entitlements.
Mr Chemai contended that shortly after his abrupt recall and arrival in Nairobi, Dr Yusuf Nzibo, Dr Kosgei’s husband, was appointed Kenya’s new ambassador to the United States.
“Such appointment directly benefitted Dr Kosgei on account of the benefits that accrue to her personally as a spouse together with her children on account of the then renewed terms of service for Ambassadors and High Commissioners appointed by the President of the Republic of Kenya to serve abroad,” he told the High Court’s Labour Relations division.
The benefits include the education of the envoy’s children by the taxpayer.
Dr Nzibo went on to serve as ambassador in the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.
He was also a commissioner in the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and later the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission from 2008 to 2017.
Dr Kosgei became head of Public Service in the dying years of President Moi’s administration and was to become an MP and Cabinet minister under President Mwai Kibaki from 2008 to 2013.
Mr Chemai, who lost his job following Dr Kosgei’s letter, this week got a reprieve after the High Court Labour Relations division awarded him Sh60 million for loss of employment.
In his judgment, Justice Nduma Nderi noted the “the contract was terminated for no fault of the claimant by operation of the law.”
The case was first lodged in court in July, 2001.
The State filed a statement of defence in August the same year and it was not until December last year that the case went to full hearing.
Mr Chemai was the Managing Director of Kenya Posts and Telecommunications (KPTC) in 1995. In September 1995, he was appointed Ambassador of Kenya to Japan by President Moi for a period of 36 months.
In 1997, before the expiry of the first 36 months, he was appointed to serve as the Ambassador of Kenya to the United States of America, Colombia and Mexico
After the expiry of the initial 36 months, the President extended his contract for a further 36 months as a result of which the contract period was to expire on August, 2, 2001.
“However, before the expiry of his contract by a letter dated October 14, 1999, Dr Kosgei, without just and legal cause, maliciously, illegally and unconstitutionally recalled him from his station in Washington DC where he was serving,” noted the judge.
In March 2000, then Head of Public Service Richard Leakey wrote a letter retrospectively terminating and removing Mr Chemai from his presidential appointment as Ambassador with effect from November 15, 1999.
“It is his contention that the said Permanent Secretary had no legal authority to terminate his contract as his was a presidential appointment,” noted the judge.
The government, in its defence, stated that according to the terms of the contract, it could at any time determine the engagement of the person engaged by giving him three months’ notice in writing, or paying him one month’s salary in lieu of notice.
The judge noted that the then Constitution was clear that only the President could terminate an ambassador’s status.
He noted that in the appointment letter, it was expressly stated that Mr Chemai had been appointed by the President, but in the November 14 letter, he was informed that “the government had decided” to recall him.
“Mr Leakey and Dr Kosgei therefore purported to exercise powers they did not have, which power they were expressly restricted from exercising even in their capacity as members of the Public Service Commission,” noted Justice Nderi.
The judge noted that the move was an “ill-motivated conspiracy” to benefit Dr Nzibo.
“It was not far-fetched for a reasonable person to impute malice, ill-will and illegality in the manner Mr Chemai was abruptly recalled and received a harsh welcome back at home. The fact that Mr Chemai was immediately replaced by the husband of the Permanent Secretary confirmed his worst fears,” noted the judge.
The court awarded Mr Chemai the equivalent of the basic allowance, both foreign and local for the period of twenty two (22) months remaining to complete the contract and loss of school fees for his children.
All payable with interest at court rates from the date of filing the suit until payment in full.