Higher Education minister William Ruto was on Tuesday suspended from the Cabinet until a corruption case against him pending at the Nairobi Chief Magistrates court is concluded.
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga announced through the Presidential Press Service that the suspension takes immediate effect in line with the provision of the public officers code of ethics and the leadership and integrity dictates of the new Constitution.
Prof. Hellen Sambili will act in the Higher Education, Science and Technology docket, which has been on the spotlight over Mr Ruto’s push for less funding for arts courses and introduction of a double intake to eliminate the two-year wait endured by Form Four leavers before they can join universities.
The case that led to Mr Ruto’s suspension arose from charges that the minister received Sh96 million to facilitate the sale of ungazetted forest land to the Kenya Pipeline Company.
Last week on Friday, the High Court rejected an application by Mr Ruto to stop the case on the grounds that his rights had been infringed.
Judges Jeanne Gacheche, Leonard Njagi and Roseline Wendoh said that they were not convinced that any of Mr Ruto’s rights had been infringed upon because he was still innocent until the trial court proved otherwise.
The ruling was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against corruption by, among others, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission head PLO Lumumba.
Section 62 of the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act stipulates that “a public officer who is charged with corruption or economic crime shall be suspended at half pay, with effect from the date of the charge.”
Such a suspended public officer continues to receive the full amount of any allowances, according the law.
Mr Ruto and four other persons face fraud charges over the alleged sale of a piece of land in Ngong forest to Kenya Pipeline Company for Sh272 million.
The minister allegedly received Sh96 million at various intervals during the alleged transaction.
In the case, the Eldoret North MP and Berke Commercial Agencies, a company associated with him, Mr Joshua Kulei, a former aide of retired president Daniel Moi, Mr Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central MP) and two other firms were sued for allegedly obtaining money from KPC between August 6 and September 6, 2001.
The suspension is in line with that served by former ministers Kiraitu Murungi, David Mwiraria, Amos Kimunya and Chris Murungaru. Mr Murungi and Mr Kimunya were resumed cabinet duties after they were absolved of wrongdoing.