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November 18, 2018

Muturi cracks whip to cleanse committees of bribery claims

Speaker Justin Muturi and President of African Parliamentarians' Network Against Corruption share a light moment with board members (from L) Chris Wamalwa, Musikari Kombo and Jean Pierre Passi of DR Congo moments before the start of the Inaugural board meeting with an aim to develop, maintain and promote a network to build the capacity of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in Africa to fight corruption. July 27, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor
Speaker Justin Muturi and President of African Parliamentarians' Network Against Corruption share a light moment with board members (from L) Chris Wamalwa, Musikari Kombo and Jean Pierre Passi of DR Congo moments before the start of the Inaugural board meeting with an aim to develop, maintain and promote a network to build the capacity of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in Africa to fight corruption. July 27, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has directed parliamentary committees to stop summoning individuals or agencies already being investigated or facing court charges, unless they have new information besides the one being prosecuted.

MPs had been accused of jumping into matters under probe, either by the EACC or the DCI, with the aim of seeking favours.

The move by the House leadership to order a freeze on queries into cases seized by other agencies is a step by the August House to redeem its image following claims the committees are mired in bribery.

It is said some members have been extorting money from witnesses or persons of interest to sway reports. Non-members are also accused of flocking such grilling sessions to cut deals.

Muturi warned that committees should be diligent to avoid wasting public resources on doomed investigations.

Parallel investigations do notn however, preclude the work of the committees.

“Where persons who are being investigated are charged in court and prosecution commences on the same matters that are before a committee, I see no use in the particular committee proceeding with the matter, unless there is new information different from those being prosecuted in court,” he said in a communication to the House.

Read:We deserve to be called MPigs, Mbadi says after Duale raps MPs

The Speaker also cautioned committees against attempts to begin their own parallel investigations into some matters on the pretext that the investigating agencies are dragging their feet.

“Committees have no way of dictating the timelines applicable to investigations outside Parliament,” he told the MPs.

Muturi urged the 12th Parliament to rise to the occasion to conduct inquiries that can lead to evidence-based recommendations that form the basis of prosecutions of perpetrators.

“Members have to remember at all times that the aim of an interrogation is to bring out or reveal information relevant to the matter under consideration by the committee. Coercion, intimidation and embracing witnesses rarely aid this objective,” he said.

The Lands committee was hit by bribery allegations following their investigations into the Sh3.2 billion Ruaraka land.

The joint Committee of Trade and Agriculture investigating sugar is battling the same claims.

The lands team chaired by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai concluded its report, which was adopted by the House early this month.

The Trade and Agriculture team co-chaired by Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Adan Haji (Mandera South) has yet to finalise its probe. The tough guidelines are aimed at reining in rogue MPs using committees as gravy trains. Muturi directed that MPs found guilty of seeking favours from witnesses be summoned and stripped of their membership.

Read:Bribery claims rock House committees

MPs pocket Sh5,000 per sitting. They can only attend a maximum of two sittings a day. Committee chairs earn Sh10,000 and vice chairpersons Sh8,000.

Muturi warned the legislators against being too cosy with witnesses. This followed concerns that some committees come up with shoddy reports. To effect this directive, Muturi barred MPs from ushering in persons appearing before the committee and escorting them out after their interaction. He said that duty squarely rests with the secretariat or the serjeant-at-arms.

He said the lawmakers would now have to relate with witnesses strictly at “arms length. Members must conduct themselves with utmost respect while interacting with witnesses. Members should also endeavour to avoid making any contacts with witnesses prior to or during hearings,” Muturi said.

During the probe of contraband sugar by the joint committee of Trade and Agriculture, MPs were captured scrambling for an opportunity to greet witnesses who appeared before them, raising concerns the exercise was a sanitising process.

Chairpersons of committees have also had the tendency of escorting witnesses after grilling sessions while some members scramble to receive them at the gates of Parliament Buildings before retreating for lunch at five-star hotels.

Also See:No hugs and kisses in sugar probe, proper report in 10 days, Muturi tells MPs

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