KENYA Bleeding Money – Kenyans Losing Millions of Shillings in Wanton Legal Representation
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: Africa Uncensored
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 2022-05-11
Authors: Moffin Njoroge
My name is Moffin Njoroge, a data journalist and fact checker at Africa Uncensored, based in Nairobi. I am passionate about data and strive to find patterns, stories and leads by analyzing and interpreting datasets. I believe in researching, analysing and simplifying data to not only charts and graphs but to use it as a storytelling tool to reach all audiences despite their technological and data understanding.
The project entailed scraping court cases from [The National Council for law reporting](https://http://kenyalaw.org/kl/) where the Attorney General was one of the parties between 20th August 2013 to 11th June 2021 in the 5 major courts in Kenya. The focus initially was the number of losses and amount of money the Kenyan government had been asked to compensate other parties. The project brought out other issues such as illegal evictions, fraudulent transfer and sale of government land and outright implementation of unconstitutional policies and process by the executive and the Presidency during that period.
The impact was a informing and sensitizing Kenyan citizens on the misuse and loss of tax payer money in the legal fees and compensation to the awarded paties. The project also highlighted issues of human rights abuse especially in the illegal and inhumane eviction of squatters in state parastatal lands and gazzetted forest zones without providing alternative settlement for the victims. The project highlighted the land issue which has been a major issue since Kenya gained independence. It highlighted the high level of corruption with government officials and other prominent influential people colluded with the Lands ministry officials to steal land allocated to various state agencies and departments.
The article led to Twitter space which I moderated and had experienced guests such as lawyers, and activists including one Phyllis Omido an environmental activists who led and won a court case against the Kenyan government for allowing a lead smelting plant to operate in Uhuru Owino slum in Mombasa, causing lead poisoning and many deaths to residents.
The main tool used during research and data collection was python and a Google Chrome web extension, Instant Data Scrapper. The two tools were used to scrape data from [The National Council for law reporting ](https://http://kenyalaw.org/kl/) website searching for all court cases within the period of interest where the Attorney General is a party in the suit. I then used Google Sheets to clean the data taking out the cases that were irrelevant or civil cases whereby the Attorney General was mentioned but the suit was not for or against the government. I alo used it to find cases that had a compensation aspect to them and totalled up the compensation amounts.
I also used Flourish to create charts and graphs.
Context about the project:
The project focuses mostly on a political aspect showing the loss of tax payer money in the litigations. Their is also a focus on corruption especially on land matters. Another area is the blatant diregard for human rights by the government especially in the violent and illegal eviction of squatters. It also highlights the constant attacks to the judiciary by the Presidency and the executive arm of government during President Uhuru kenyatta’s tenure and his willingness to implement unconstitutional policies.
Access to data was the main challenge as the Judiciary’s website has not been working for over four months now. Fortunately, the The National Council for law reporting has created a repository of court cases saving us the time and money needed to go to different court registrars to request for case files.
Anotheer highlight is the Attorney General’s office refusal to admit to the number of case losses and veiled threats in their right of response calling citing this project as sensational reporting that is not Scientifically objective or factual, that our analysis was premised on a seriously flawed understanding of the court process and ignoring the questions we posed about the illegal eviction of squatters.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
The main lesson would be to find alternative sources for government data and to use it to hold governments accountable in the dispensation of their mandates to citizens.