A court ruling that has blocked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations from prosecuting criminal cases marks a milestone in the administration of justice. This week, Justice George Odunga made a ruling that serves to settle jurisdictional disputes and brings clarity to the roles of DCI and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which offices are key to the justice system.
At the heart of the dispute is the role each plays in handling criminal matters. Precisely, there has been concern that the DCI has been taking matters to court without going through the DPP, yet that is the office constitutionally mandated to prosecute cases.
Often, a number of such cases have collapsed in court because the evidence presented never met the threshold for conviction. This creates a situation where criminals walk away free and that undermines the war against crime.
The DCI draws its mandate from the National Police Service Act, which, among others, commits it to collect and provide criminal intelligence and undertake criminal investigations. Significantly, the law mandates it to act on directives given to the Inspector General by the Director of Public Prosecutions. On this score, the DCI is required to conduct investigations and provide information to the DPP to litigate cases in court.
In principle, the two offices play complementary roles and, therefore, should not compete or seek to outdo each other.
For practical argument, the current holders of the two offices – George Kinoti who is the DCI boss and DPP Noordin Haji – were instrumental in arrests and prosecution of several corruption cases in 2018 and last year. However, most of the cases have not been litigated to their logical conclusion. Worse, the fire to pursue such cases appears to have died. More worrisome is the fact some of the cases have fallen flat because of bungled investigations.
Even so, the ruling raises other questions. Already, there are several cases in court that were filed by the DCI and which have not been arbitrated. Thus, the question is: what will happen to them? Will they collapse automatically? What are the implications for the parties involved?
The fight against corruption, among other crimes, remains vexed. Resources are lost due to corruption and outright theft, which is why the public is aggrieved when many graft suits collapse simply because of lack of evidence. Others take inexplicably long time to be concluded.
In the circumstances, it is critical to give clarity and affirm the roles of the two agencies. Let the DCI and DPP keep to their roles and avoid turf wars that undermine pursuit and administration of justice.