HARDLY 'AUGUST'

House of Shame: History of bribery allegations in Parliament

The so-called 'August' House has been hit by a wave of bribery allegations

In Summary

• Parliament has had to fight off waves of bribery claims that have undermined its integrity and tarnished the image of the not-so-'August' House.

• Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka dismissed the claims as wild allegations only meant to besmirch the noble institution of Parliament.

Parliament Buildings.
AUGUST? Parliament Buildings.
Image: FILE

The recent claims of palm-greasing of senators in the county revenue formula standoff have rekindled bribery allegations that have rocked Parliament in the recent past.

Parliament has had to fight off waves of bribery claims that have undermined the integrity and lowered the image of the not-so-'august' House.

Lawmakers have the mandate to oversight county and national governments, represent constituencies and champion the interest of the devolved units, a role filled with temptations and requiring the highest level of rectitude.

 

However, senators and members of the National Assembly have been involved in alleged bribery schemes involving millions of shillings to betray the public trust and confidence.

There are claims the legislators have been extorting money from influential figures under probe by House committee or those appearing to answer to audit queries to shield them from indictment.

Lawyers Danstan Omari, an advocate of the High Court, and Bobby Mkangi, a constitutional expert, termed Parliament a den of corruption.

Omari said the autonomy and the immense powers to summon and censure witnesses have the main contributors to major extortion in Parliament.

“Because for this [immense power], the appetite for summoning the Executive and other people has grown with time. The people who they are summoning are people who have been turned into cash cows,” he said.

Further, the lawyer said this has led to duplication of investigations and summonses by parliamentary committees. “It is purely because each person wants to sit in those committees to extort money," Omari said.

“The totality of the nation is liable for commitment to Kamiti [Maximum Security Prison] because we have failed to decide who qualifies to be elected. Those few who go in on principle, are always rejected. So Parliament shall continue being the den of thieves and robbers without violence,” he added.

 

Mkangi said bribery claims are as old as Parliament itself because none of them has been officiated [substantiated] because the subjects are party to the crime.

“These people are complaining that they are being extorted. Has anybody made an official complaint to the police? None. Why? Because they are part of a cover-up system,” he said.

But Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka dismissed the claims as wild allegations only meant to tarnish the institution of Parliament.

“Remember, the Powers and Privileges Committee investigated the [allegations of bribery in the] the Ruaraka [land scandal] and there was no evidence or proof. Whoever makes such an allegation must provide evidence,” Lusaka told the Star.

A fortnight ago, ODM leader Raila Odinga denounced the rot in Parliament, claiming some senators had been bribed in the protracted standoff over the basis of sharing revenue among the 47 counties.

“The events have also laid bare the so-far unsuccessful struggle to make integrity and search for public goods over private gain the basis for politics and holding public office," Raila said.

The remarks came hot in the heels of claims some senators had pocketed millions from some state and non-state actors to prolong the stalemate.

Early this month, the Council of Governors alleged attempted extortion of governors by the Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee chaired by Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri. The governors were appearing before the committee to respond to audit queries about irregular spending.

CoG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya invited the EACC and the DCI to investigate the motive behind some of the physical summons governors receive. He threatened to initiate a motion to disband the House.

However, senators dismissed the claims as propaganda peddled by the county chiefs to evade accounting for the billions of shillings of taxpayers' money disbursed to their governments.

“If he has evidence of extortion, he should table it instead of issuing cowardly remarks on behalf of his colleagues, known for their high level pilferage and cover-ups through official channels,” Senate Majority Chief Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jr said.

In October last year, the same committee, then chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang', was in the spotlight for allegedly demanding as much as Sh100 million from governors appearing before it.

Kajwang dismissed the bribery claims as unfounded and unsubstantiated.

“If the people peddling those claims believe in integrity, then I challenge them to submit their complaints formally to Parliament,” Kajwang had told the Star last October.

In 2018, there were claims the committee demanded bribes from Interior CS Fred Matiang'i who was then in charge of Education, over the Sh1.5 billion Ruaraka land saga. The state actually paid for its own public land.

The money was released in 2017 as payment to businessman Francis Mburu’s company for the pubic land where two public schools – Ruaraka High and Drive-In Primary- stand.

A report prepared by the committee implicated top government officials for being criminally liable for the loss of public funds. However, the report was rejected by senators on the floor.

Some senators claimed their colleagues were given Sh30,000 to Sh50,000 to stay away from the House when the report came up for voting.

“I felt frustrated as the adoption of the report would have shown that Parliament is an active player,” Kajwang said.

Earlier, there were claims that businessman Mburu busted senators who wanted to extort Sh100 million from him to write a favourable report.

In the same year, bribery claims rocked the National Assembly’s joint committee on Agriculture and Trade which conducted a probe of the sugar scandal - involving preferential treatment for imports and tainted sugar.

The committee members were accused of pocketing bribes to protect importers of contraband consignments. The committee was jointly chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega and his Mandera East counterpart Adan Ali.

Kimilili MP Didmus accused Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Gedi of attempting to bribe him with Sh10,000 to reject a report prepared by the committee. Gedi denied bribery allegations but said she was lobbying against the report.

Investigations carried out by the Powers and Privileges Committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi did not indict any lawmakers accused of either giving or receiving bribes to shoot down the sugar report.

In the last Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee chaired by then Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba became the first panel in Parliament’s history to be disbanded over bribery and extortion claims.

The committee, charged with over-sighting state institutions, was disbanded after the Powers and Privileges Committee found that members were using their positions to enrich themselves through ‘extortion and blackmail.’

Barred from the new PAC were Namwamba, vice-chairperson Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes), Ahmed Abass (Ijara), James Bett (Kesses) and Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike).

The five “made allegations against others, and failed to substantiate their allegations within the period specified under Standing Order 91 [the next sitting day]."

They had accused then Defence PS Mutea Iringo of bribing some members with Sh1.5 million to stop investigations into how the Interior ministry spent Sh2.9 billion in a confidential account in the 2013-14 financial year.


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