Graft war crippled as MPs kick out bosses

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MatemuPresident Uhuru Kenyatta was on Wednesday evening given the green light to suspend Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Mumo Matemu and his deputy, Ms Irene Keino, and set up a tribunal to investigate their conduct.

Jubilee Coalition MPs outvoted their Cord counterparts 130-52 to approve the report of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee after more than three hours of debate and one amendment to the report.

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EACC secretary Halakhe Waqo was, however, spared after Jubilee Coalition MPs rallied to shoot down a proposed recommendation to have the process of sacking him started. 103 MPs voted against the recommendation while 72 voted for it.

The Jubilee Coalition considers the suspension of Mr Matemu and Ms Keino as the first step towards changing the commission.

MPs were unanimous in their finding that the troubles at EACC were caused by the broken relationship between the commissioners and the secretariat headed by Mr Waqo.

Mr Waqo’s deputy, Mr Michael Kamau Mubea, was on Monday suspended for 90 days by the commissioners.

The recommendation on Mr Waqo by Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’ was based on the committee’s observation that the problems at the EACC were caused by both the commission  and the secretariat.

Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi supported the amendment, saying: “The commission secretary is a State Officer and we find it necessary that he should be the first person to be dealt with if we decide that the commissioners must go home.”

REJECT AMENDMENT

However, Majority Leader Aden Duale marshalled Jubilee MPs to reject the proposed amendment, sparking a protest by Cord MPs. The stand-off frustrated debate for more than 10 minutes as a second vote was called on a procedural matter.

MPs also approved a recommendation that the EACC be given 14 days to investigate the circumstances behind the transfer of Integrity House, its headquarters, to a company allegedly owned by Mr Ahmed Adan, a Nairobi-based lawyer. The transfer came about in 2013 after the Deposit Protection Fund discharged the property in controversial circumstances.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma summed up the recommendation.

“Essentially, we are saying that during these investigations, Integrity Centre is owned by Ahmed Adan and we are investigating this matter. Having stumbled on this matter and not knowing how the interests of the depositors were dealt with, the House recommends we investigate,” he said.

According to the Constitution, the tribunal to investigate the anti-corruption commissioners should be headed by a person who is either a judge or has been one. It should also have at least two others who can qualify as High Court judges.

The Constitution says: “The tribunal shall investigate the matter expeditiously, report on the facts and make a binding recommendation to the President, who shall act in accordance with the recommendations within 30 days.”

If the President suspends the two commissioners, they would be entitled to half of their salaries and benefits while under suspension.

EACC is currently working on numerous cases involving public officers that were in a list submitted to the President who in turn handed it over to Parliament. The commission had this week said it would give 21 files to the Director of Public Prosecution next week so that he can start prosecuting the cases. Already, some Cabinet and Principal Secretaries and former top officials have been charged in connection with corruption allegations.

“The committee observes that there is an inter-agency team comprising EACC, the Director of Public Prosecutions and other players currently investigating where the President gave a timeline of 60 days,” the report stated. It said the agency can finalise investigations and take the necessary steps to ensure prosecution of suspects in the absence of the commissioners.

“The committee also observes that the 60 days timeline given by the President to conclude investigations is not a legal timeline and can be extended,” it added.

INTEGRITY HOUSE OWNERSHIP

Before that, the House spent more than an hour debating the amendments proposed by Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo regarding the investigations into the ownership of Integrity House.

Ms Priscilla Nyokabi (Nyeri County Woman Rep, TNA) said the committee had also come across information on the ownership of Integrity Centre, the seat of the EACC, and concluded that it was a matter worth following up by the commission.

“The substance of the petition is the commissioners, not the secretariat,” she said.

Mr Dalmas Otieno (Rongo, ODM) said it was evident that the commission was at war with itself, with accusations traded between commissioners and with members of the secretariat.

“Our mandate is to deal with the commissioners, not the secretariat itself,” he said.

He said the better option would have been an additional recommendation that the EACC also deal with the matter of how Integrity House was taken from the Deposit Protection Fund and given to Tegus Ltd.

-nation.co.ke

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