Chief Justice Martha Koome has prompted an attempt to have her removed from office

The nomination of twenty-two members to the Tax Appeal Tribunal by Chief Justice Martha Koome has prompted an attempt to have her removed from office, according to a suit filed with the Judicial Service Commission.

Michael Kojo Otieno, the petitioner, claims that the Chief Justice has violated the Judicial Code of Conduct and Ethics by not following the law while appointing members to the Tax Appeal Tribunal.

Petitioner claims that by designating more members than required by Section 4 of the Tax Appeal Tribunal Act, Koome discriminated against applicants for the position of tribunal member.

Otieno, a native of Homabay County, charges Koome with exceeding the number of members needed by law by appointing more than fifteen in his appeal. The law stipulates that she must have appointed no more than twenty.

"Consequently, the judge infringed on Article 3, 10 and Rule 3(5) of the code of conduct of judicial officers as interpreted with the Public Officers Ethics Act, hence undermining public confidence," according to him.

In addition, the petitioner criticised Koome for adding two unfunded members to the panel, which she said was a burden on Kenyan taxpayers.

"The acts taken by the Chief Justice in the appointment of the tax appeal tribunal turned out to be illegal, null, and void, therefore rendering him unworthy to serve in public office," adds Otieno.

Otieno elaborates by saying that the Chief Justice was inappropriate for duty as a judge because she was dishonest in her use of the authority granted to her by the Tax Appeal Tribunal Act, which was based on her position as a judicial officer, in violation of rule 12(1) of that code of conduct.

"Koome fell short of meeting the criteria of proving to be unselfish by only relying on the public interest being shown with transparency in the performance of public duties while selecting the members of the Tax Appeal Tribunal," according to the petitioners.

Otieno claims that the Head of the Judiciary is not doing her job to build public confidence in the country's judicial system—being open, thorough, and devoted to maintaining the rule of law.

"The behaviour of the Chief Justice in the appointment of Tax Appeal Tribunal members violates Article 166(2)(c) of the Constitution and Section 13 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, which a judge, judicial officer, and judicial staff must comply with as well as uphold the following legal and moral standards," Otieno writes in his JSC petition.

Koome announced the appointment of new members via the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in a Gazette notice dated May 10, 2023. Each member will serve for a period of three years.

"In exercise of the powers assigned by Section 4 of the Tax Appeals Tribunal Act, 2013, the Judicial Service Commission appoints members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal for a term of three years, with effect from May 10, 2023," stated Koome.

Awuor Ogaga, Juma Ongeti Walter, Spencer Ololchike Sankale, Mohamed Diriye, and Bunyali Vikiru are the new members.

Muga Christine Anyango, Komolo Erick Onyango, Kashindi George Ashiono, Bernadette Muthira Gitari, Makau Martin Mutiso James, Terer Boniface Kibiy, and Ng'ang'a Eunice Njeri are among the other appointments.

Appeals from the commissioner's judgements on tax issues arising under the provisions of tax law are heard and decided by the tribunal.

Individuals and corporations, as well as tax agents, solicitors, and representatives from the Kenya Revenue Authority, bring their tax cases before the tribunal.

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