MPs under scrutiny over House team
Published on May 5, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Reporter
The credibility of the respected Public Investments Committee (PIC) is in question after it emerged that its new members comprise MPs who have been censured by the same committee in the past.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) pointed out the contradiction and called on the affected MPs to quit the watchdog committee that investigates details of public investments.
Four MPs who have been censured by PIC over their investment conduct were picked when parliamentary committees were formed last week.
MPs whose names or companies associated with them have featured in previous PIC reports include Lugari MP, Mr Cyrus Jirongo, Mathira MP, Mr Ephraim Maina, Baringo Central MP, Mr Sammy Mwaita, and Igembe South MP, Mr Michika Lintuli.
The LSK said there was a likelihood of a conflict of interest if the legislators continued sitting in the PIC. LSK vice-chairman, Mr James Mwamu, said it was not possible for the MPs to effectively discharge their duties in the committee.
“There is a conflict of interest. They could interfere with investigation if cases touching on their companies are brought into focus,” argued Mwamu.
He said if they refused to relinquish their positions, they should be removed. Mwamu said even if some of the MPs had been cleared, they should still relinquish their positions or be removed for the sake of public interest.
“They can be moved to other committees,” said the lawyer.
He said there were close to 100 MPs who were not named in the committee and could replace those adversely mentioned.
However, three of the MPs said calls for them to resign were part of “calculated vendetta” to dent their careers because they have indicated their desire to be part of an opposition group against the grand coalition.
Jirongo, Maina and Mwaita wondered why Cabinet ministers who have had numerous cases in the past against them were not being asked to resign.
“They are targeting us because of the stand we have taken — to be an opposition against the grand coalition,” said Jirongo.
“If they are sincere in their attack against me and my colleagues, why haven’t they questioned some characters in the Cabinet who are challenging court cases? None of them (lawyers) has contested their being in the Cabinet,” said Maina.
The MPs or their companies have been adversely mentioned in the 14th and 15th report of the last Parliament’s PIC that was chaired by then Siakago MP, Mr Justin Muturi, on the accounts of State Corporations.
The Muturi committee gathered evidence that the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) entered into an agreement with M/s Cyperr Enterprises, associated with Jirongo, for development of a staff housing project on Mbagathi Road next to Nyayo Highrise in Nairobi.
It was then estimated that it would be completed by February, 1991 at a cost of Sh165 million.
The report said no action was ever taken against the company despite the breach of contract. Denials
But Jirongo on Sunday said he had never been mentioned personally in any PIC report and that companies associated with him had been aggrieved in the contracts and had gone to court seeking recompense.
“We are not starting an opposition to fight the grand coalition, but to ensure we stay on course of all issues agreed on with Mr Kofi Annan,” added Jirongo.
He was referring to the February 28 agreement President Kibaki and now Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed to end the crippling post-election crisis.
In another investigation by Muturi’s committee, Mwaita, a former Commissioner of Lands, was accused of arbitrarily transferring various land parcels in Ngong Forest — land that had not been de-gazetted — from various vendors to the Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC).
The Ngong Forest land had title deeds that issued by the Government to the first allottees.
The committee expressed concern in the manner the 33 plots were hived off the forest and sold to the company as industrial plots for Sh291 million.
When reached on the telephone, Mwaita said his appointment would not prejudice the independence of the watchdog House committee.
“If anything, I am valuable to the committee. I’m an authority on land matters and will discharge my duties without prejudice,” said the MP.
He said despite cases pending in court, it did not mean that he was not fit to seat in the PIC.
Maina also scoffed at calls on him and others to resign, saying LSK was being used by politicians who had developed cold feet over the PIC formation.
Maina’s company, Kirinyaga Construction (K) Ltd, was also cited in the 14th Report. The committee said although Kirinyaga had been paid Sh283 million, about 64 per cent of the contract sum of Sh440 million, a site meeting progress report indicated that the works were far from completion and the contractor was behind schedule.
The report, for instance, indicated that only 11km of the 24.6km Magumu-Njabini Road had undergone surface dressing and first and second seal.
Maina claimed that some ministers who had pending court cases had resorted to using the LSK to malign MPs who had beeen named in the parliamentary committee.
“If it is a case of ever being under the public spotlight over any deal, even the Prime Minister Raila Odinga is cited in the Kisumu Molasses land yet none of those lawyers has raised a finger over his being in Cabinet. None of them has questioned his ability to work fairly,” he said.
But the LSK vice-chairman would not relent: “PIC will lose credibility unless the MPs do the honourable thing and resign.”
The PIC is a select committee established under Standing Order Number 148 with the mandate of examining the reports and accounts of public investments.
Previous committees complained of the slow pace — or none at all — at which the Government has implemented recommendations of the House arising from previous reports.