Fresh graft probe could send Ababu, MPs home
Public Accounts Committee chair Ababu Namwamba and three other MPs could lose their parliamentary seats if found guilty of corruption claims. The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi yesterday ordered that the operations of PAC be suspended for three weeks as the Powers and Privileges Committee investigates the matter.
If found guilty, Namwamba and the three members of his committee will lose their seats as per the Constitution. The law states that State officers found to be engaging in unethical affairs will be in gross violation of the Constitution, and hence not fit to hold public office.
Muturi said allegations of compromise, prejudices, deceit or corruption against the PAC members relate to financial probity of State officers, governed by Article 76 of the Constitution.
While invoking the provisions of Standing Order 1, Muturi directed that operations of PAC be suspended until the expiry of the period prescribed or such earlier time the House shall resolve. The move followed an earlier submission of a report by the House Committee on Powers and Privileges.
The Speaker, however, emphasised that the directive did not imply that the committee had been disbanded. “This direction does not amount to disbanding the committee or discharging any member from the committee.”
PAC has been hit by corruption claims by officials of State organs under probe. Members have accused the chair of having been compromised to doctor reports to suit the interests of the officials. Top on the list is a probe on former Internal Security ministry officials over misuse of billions of shillings.
Namwamba is alleged to have received a bribe to alter the report. He has also been accused of having received bribes to alter recommendations in a report on the purchase of equipment by IEBC and doctoring another on operations at the Judicial Service Commission.
By last evening, it was not clear whether the institutions or individuals mentioned would be summoned to testify. However, as the members moved to remove Namwamba from chair, he hit back, tabling audio evidence of three other members purportedly receiving bribes from State officers.
The three were accused of having been compromised to defend officials of the Transport ministry being investigated. Muturi said he had appointed Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi to chair the Powers and Privileges team, on his behalf, during the period of the inquiry.
“The committee (Powers and Privileges) is at liberty to co-opt not more than three other sitting members who have served for more than one term to assist them in the inquiry. Co-opted members will, however, not be allowed to vote in the committee nor will they be counted for purposes of quorum.
The committee should hold its first meeting on Monday (March 9) at 2.30pm,” Muturi directed. The team will base its investigations on whether the claims made by PAC members against the chair and against each other constitute a breach of the privileges and code of conduct of MPs.
It will also probe whether PAC would be in order to continue discharging its oversight mandate over other government institutions on behalf of the House. Muturi termed the allegations and counter-allegations of bribery or inducements made by PAC members against themselves, including against the chair, as matters of public notoriety.
“You will all agree with me a matter of this magnitude cannot be swept under the carpet on the basis that the committee had dealt with it. The public, who bestowed you with the honour of representing them in this august House deserves answers.” On Wednesday, Leader of Majority Aden Duale sought a ruling from the Speaker as to what goes on in committees whose integrity is questioned.
Muturi directed that in order to protect the integrity of the National Assembly and to give a fair hearing to PAC members, the Powers and Privileges Committee should give the members under probe a fair hearing and table a report before the House within 21 days from the date of his communication.
The House will debate the report within three days thereafter. Muturi, however, told the committee to consider that the matters raised were serious and, therefore, the standard of proof required to substantiate the claims ought to be very high.
He further directed the House team to develop, for consideration by the House, a Code of Conduct for MPs as required under Section 37 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012, and submit it on or before the end of August.