By Billow Kerrow
Parliament is at it again. The Khalwale-led PAC committee has once again recommended sanctions against public officers over the De la Rue money printing deals.
As its tradition, when the report comes before the House, the same committee members may backtrack on their recommendations, and other members may take partisan positions on the matter. Yet again, others will obfuscate, led by their personal interests, not in the least their rent-seeking behaviour.
It is not surprising for the committee to sanction former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya for his overt role in the De la Rue matter. The man has a knack for getting into trouble, and graft-induced controversy is his second nature. He exemplifies a class of voracious and greedy public officials who abuse their offices at every turn in total impunity.
His utter disdain for law and due process is shocking, as is his arrogance when dealing with everyone, including MPs. Yet, the same Parliament had him fired from the Finance docket only to bounce back in the cabinet a short while later, courtesy of his cosy relationship with State House.
De La Rue has always been a cash cow for the Executive. Whoever takes over the Finance docket develops a pecuniary interest in its contract and soon acts to vary the terms. Just a month to the 2002 elections, the Moi regime renewed its money printing contract for 10 years.
When the Narc team took over, then Finance Minister Hon Mwiraria immediately cancelled the contract and renegotiated another one. Then Kimunya came in, and called his shots too, and even convinced Cabinet that Government should buy shares in it! It has always been the same. Those who stand in the way, like former Deputy Governor Jacinta Mwatela, get fired.
Her boss, Governor Andrew Mulei, was bundled out ignominiously for defying Kimunya. Mwatela had her powers under the CBK Act curtailed so that she remained impotent on the matter. I remember Police being sent in to CBK one morning to intimidate her team on money laundering scam at one of the banks. CBK as an agent of the Treasury cannot be independent.
In its monetary policy, it may. However, the Treasury still has immense powers in the statutes to determine operational issues in the bank, including currency printing. MPs need to clip Minister’s wings at the bank first. Indeed, for CBK, the Treasury’s performance affects its mandate adversely. Take for instance the recent depreciation of the shilling.
CBK can only manipulate its monetary instruments to stabilise the shilling, including the interest rate, which is not favourable to the economy. However, that the fiscal policies by the Treasury largely contribute to the inadequacies of the supply side is often ignored.
Huge public spending, massive domestic borrowing and fiscal measures that impact on macro-economic indicators fall under their docket. But when the indicators like the value of the shilling and the exchange rate worsen, we tend to heap the blame on CBK.
The recent attempt by Parliament to have an external Presidential appointee to chair CBK’s board only serves to further undermine its independence. Currently, the governor is under no direct control of anyone as he chairs the Board, except as guided by the independent board members. But when serving under a board chaired by a political appointee, this independence will be greatly impaired.