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January 24, 2019

The House of Handouts

The Parliament building. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
The Parliament building. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

The current uproar and professions of shock over alleged bribery in the 'august' House is nothing new.

Some MPs are accused of receiving bribes to kill the report indicting Cabinet secretaries over import of contraband sugar, some of it poisonous.

But this is just the latest of a series of reports and motions that have sailed through or been trashed due to vested interests with deep pockets.

In the sugar drama, National Assembly leadership and Speaker Justin Muturi have been blamed by Kieni MP Kanini Kega for rejection of the report.

Muturi, Aden Duale (Majority leader) and John Mbadi (Minority leader) are accused of being instrumental in killing the report in a vote on August 9. Kanini co-chaired the joint committee on Trade and Agriculture that authored the report.

Kanini said the Speaker did not allow committee members to contribute when the report was tabled.

“All 26 members of my committee appended signatures to the document but it is unfortunate the Speaker did not give any of them the opportunity to contribute. I read malice in this because all those allowed to speak were against it. It was well-choreographed," Kanini said.

Kanini said the House leadership had already decided to have the report watered down by the MPs.

“I remember trying to encourage the Speaker to reign in members led by the Majority leader who were consulting in high tones. I was wrong because they had already made up their minds,” the irate MP said.

“It was one of my lowest moments because I realised we were taken on a wild goose chase. They did not have the interests of cane farmers at heart and it was basically about business wars.”

Prior to the debate on the report, some MPs are said to have pocketed Sh10,000-Sh30,000, based on their political influence.

Everyone denies impropriety.

The Committee on Powers and Privileges is yet to investigate.

In an interview with the Star, Duale declined to comment on the sugar report but said there are a series of motions, reports and approvals in the House after intensive lobbying.

"I don't want to comment about the sugar report because that is like flogging a dead horse. Even the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority Bill, 2017 that I tabled was rejected. So this is not the first one to be rejected," Duale said.

 The Bill by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration sought to streamline and coordinate the transport sector within Nairobi and its neighbouring counties. It was withdrawn on Friday.

 During thwarting of the Bill in March this year, Duale informed the House the Bill would be redrafted by the Executive to incorporate views from all stakeholders.

 The Bill would have established an integrated, efficient and sustainable transport system within five counties, Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Murang’a.

 Before the debate, a prominent governor is said to have bribed MPs to shoot down the Bill.

As for the sugar report, Mbadi told the Star he did not whip his members to reject it.

“If these members who talk in funerals are serious and think it was a mistake for Parliament to reject the report, they should invoke Standing Order 49, requesting the Speaker to allow them to reintroduce the report and convince the House of its merit. The House can either pass or reject it,” Mbadi said.

House Majority chief whip Benjamin Washiali said they would restore the dignity of Parliament.

“The image of Parliament must be restored. It has been  seriously eroded and it is not making some of us in the leadership comfortable,” the Mumias East MP said.

“We must restore the image of the House, even if it means sacrificing some members who have gone off the track.

Parliament's image has taken a beating over integrity issues.

 In 2015, a National Assembly committee meeting turned rowdy as members accused each other over a Sh4 million bribe. 

 MPs on the Agriculture committee nearly came to blows after allegations were made that chairman Adan Nooru had received a bribe from sugar barons to go slow on its report on the sugar crisis. 

 The closed-door session degenerated into shouts and sneers. Members demanded the press be admitted after other members insisted the bribery allegations be made in public. 

 There was a face-off. Some members said that unnamed sugar barons had distributed money to some colleagues to water down the report. 

Three MPs — Fred Outa (Nyando), Ben Washiali (Mumias East) and John Kobado (Uriri) — who had declined to sign the report tabled in the House, insisted that bribes were paid to influence the report. 

Washiali and Outa denied ever making the allegations, though the former maintained  the Sh4 million allegedly deposited in Nooru’s account had a bearing on the “hollow” report tabled in the House. 

 “I have a feeling the Sh4 million has had an effect on the report we came up with. I know the money was deposited in your account and even if you want to kill me, I will say it,” Washiali told the chairman. 

 Nooru accused Washiali of pushing the committee to indict "a particular person", which the committee rejected, as there was insufficient evidence to link that person to the woes at Mumias Sugar Company. 

 In December last year, Parliament was a beehive of activity as nominees to the East Africa Legislative Assembly went on a vote-hunting spree. The scramble for the few slots at the Arusha-based Assembly followed a turbulent electioneering period.

 The spirited lobbying was infiltrated by a prominent Cabinet Secretary and a governor championing their favoured  candidates. The candidate with deep pockets was guaranteed a slot.

 At that juncture, Nasa and Jubilee MPs united to hasten the process of nominating Kenya's representatives to EALA. Money was being disbursed openly to lawmakers, the sums based on their political influence.

 Some candidates refused to bribe their way in and sailed through. Some MPs claimed they had been drained by their campaigning and this was an opportune time for payback.

 In a one instance, a prominent county boss stormed Parliament accompanied by his candidate and had some legislators lined up to receive Sh20,000 each.

 In 2015, former Devolution CS Anne Waiguru was on the razor's edge when MPs almost impeached her over corruption at the National Youth Service. But she survived.

 The Speaker declined Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter's motion to impeach Waiguru. Muturi said he had received the MP's request for Waiguru's impeachment and had written back to him.

 He informed informed Keter that his motion against Waiguru had only 80 signatures, after 17 MPs withdrew support.

 The motion — over a Sh791 million loss at the NYS — required 87 signatures to be approved by the Speaker and 117 MPs to vote in favour.

 In the motion, Keter had alleged gross violation of the Constitution in management of the NYS, leading to loss of public funds and financial irregularities. 

 That was the second attempt to remove Waiguru. The first in May 2014 was unsuccessful, as Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi failed to appear to move his motion. Linturi had accused Waiguru of intimidating and threatening public servants.

He had garnered 98 signatures. The impeachment motion fizzled as he was said to have left the country.

 In the same year, the National Assembly passed a report recommending dissolution of the Public Accounts Committee.

 The House Powers and Privileges had recommended disbanding the 27-member watchdog committee chaired by Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.

The committee members had been found culpable of breaching privileges of the House after claims of receiving bribes to influence investigations against certain individuals. 

The Privileges committee, chaired by Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi on behalf of Speaker Muturi, consequently recommended that another, new-look PAC be reconstituted within seven days of the resolution. 

Namwamba, Ahmed Abbas (Ijara), James Bett (Kesses), Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike), and Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes) were barred from the committee to be reconstituted for failing to substantiate allegations of corruption leveled against their colleagues. 

The five members were also required to apologise from the Bar of the Chamber for imputing improper motives to their PAC colleagues in the meeting of February 26, 2015. 

While adopting the report, the House dismissed an audio recording made by Ababu that captured the committee members, including himself and ODM leader Raila Odinga, discussing the bribery allegations.

The recording captured an MP claiming that they received bribes from Defence PS Mutea Iringo to influence the committee’s findings on Sh2.8 billion in confidential expenditure.

In the same year, the former director of medical services, Nicholas Muraguri, called claims that MPs were being bribed to dilute regulation of the tobacco industry unfortunate and a "dirty game".

British American Tobacco is alleged to have bribed MPs to weaken smoking regulations. It denied the allegations.

 “Tobacco kills, but people from the other side are always fighting back to control the sales and access to these products,” he said.






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