Noordin Haji: Why withdrawal of high profile graft cases does not daunt career sleuth


Nominee for Director General National Intelligence Service Noordin Haji before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations at the County Hall, Nairobi County on May 30, 2023 for vetting. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Being a son of career civil servant, Noordin Haji recalls attending eight different primary schools across the country between Standard One and Eight.

His father Yusuf Haji, a former provincial administrator in President Moi's administration and later minister when Mwai Kibaki was president, was transferred to different places and his son had to move along with him.

His mother was a high school teacher.

Noordin attended DEB Nyahururu primary school where he began his schooling, before transfering to different schools in Nakuru, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nairobi, Kiambu and Garissa.

The man who appeared before Parliament for vetting after being nominated for the post of director-general of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) last week said the exposure would later become very useful when he joined the public service.

"My father was regularly transferred to different duty stations and this exposed me to the diversity of our country, at a very early age," he said.

He told MPs that an important lesson he learnt in his formative years and which has guided his career in public service, is that he should give the best to the country, family and career.

"I should be willing to take personal risks to do the right thing and to have the courage to say no when no is the right answer," he said.

If approved by Parliament, Mr Haji would be returning to a familiar territory, having started his career at NIS before he was appointed the second Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), in 2018.

During vetting, Mr Haji came under heavy criticism over withdrawal of high-profile cases.

Among the cases that were withdrawn are corruption trial against Public Service CS Aisha Jumwa, the trial of former Kenya Power and Lighting Company officials including former managing directors Ben Chumo and Ken Tarus, a Sh1.1 billion graft charges against former National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) boss Geoffrey Mwangi and tax evasion charges against businesswoman Mary Wambui.

Read: Bad year for DPP as high-profile corruption cases collapse

The dropping of the cases did not go down well with anti-corruption lobby- Transparency International, as it withdrew the Leadership Integrity Award, issued to Mr Haji in 2019.

Mr Haji won the award when he aggresively pursued graft cases against senior government officials.

Mr Haji, however, defended himself saying the power to withdraw cases is conditional because the court has to review the application, and satisfy itself before allowing such an application, in order to prevent the abuse of the legal process.

Mr Haji said the DPP institutes charges against suspects when fully satisfied the case meets the evidential test and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

However, he said there are instances where the decision to charge is based on the threshold test as provided for in the Guidelines on the Decision to Charge of 2019.

He said the DPP may employ the Threshold Test in exceptional cases such as corruption and economic crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, terrorism, and murder, where the matter does not meet the evidential test but there is reasonable prospect that additional evidence will be provided.

Mr Haji said the DPP relies on the assurance of the investigating officer to provide crucial additional evidence.

He said when investigating officers fail to adduce the crucial evidence, or the investigating officer later withdraws the initial available evidence, or raises concerns as to its authenticity, reliability or admissibility, he is left with no option but to apply to withdraw the matter.

"It is also important to note that there have been cases where critical witnesses have recanted their evidence thereby reducing the chances of realistic prospect of conviction in the cases and thus necessitating the withdrawal of the cases thereof," he said.

His tenure as the DPP was smooth until he fell out with former Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti.

At some point, the two disagreed on the decision to charge and even though Mr Kinoti went ahead and preferred charges against some suspects, courts sided with Mr Haji saying the buck stops with him.

Perhaps the war is what informed a move to come up with the Decision to Charge Guideline in 2018, a milestone in Mr Haji's tenure, a standardised policy document that guides on the delivery of prosecution services.

The Decision to Charge outlines the threshold and minimum standards for a prosecutable case, sets out the guidelines for the review of prosecutorial decisions, develops the charge sheet formats, and outlines the guidelines for the establishment of a central case intake system.

His office also came up with the Uadilifu Case Management System, a central location where the decision to charge is made and charges are instituted.

The system according to the DPP's office, streamlines the prosecution process and safeguards the quality of decision making in the Decision to Charge process.

It further allows the prosecution to maintain a comprehensive record of all matters registered.

On the NIS, Mr Haji said the service is a crucial cog in the national security system, as it not only helps to address current threats, but also helps the country forecast its future threat scenarios and mitigation strategies

Other than terrorism and violent extremism, which he pointed out as the biggest threats to the security of the country, Mr Haji also pointed out that economic crimes were equally a huge threat facing Kenya.

"The service has to take a lead in the effort to fight economic crimes and will have to support it by not only collecting intelligence, but also converting it into actionable evidence," he said.

Mr Haji noted that education disparity was a significant national security concern with far-reaching implications.

"The disparity has contributed to a range of threats across various domains, including terrorism, banditry, cattle rustling and urban criminal gangs. These threats underscore the need to address education disparities as an integral part of our national security strategy," he said.

Mr Haji began his public service career over 25 years ago as a tutorial fellow at Moi University, before joining the Office of the Attorney General as a State Counsel.

Read: Why case against ex-Kenya Power bosses was dropped

Later, he joined the then National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) as a graduate intelligence officer, where he said he played an instrumental role in setting up the legal department.

The man who turns 50 early next month said when the NSIS transformed into the NIS, he had the privilege to head the legal and Counter Violent Extremism Units.

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