MPs spent millions on ‘shoddy’ Westgate report

By Felix Olick

Nairobi, Kenya: Parliament spent close to Sh10 million of taxpayers’ money to produce a report on the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall that claimed 67 lives, only for it to be dismissed by the House as “shoddy”.

One of its recommendations is that the Government pursue Al Shabaab terrorists wherever they are. This is despite the fact that the Kenya Defence Forces have been fighting the Islamic militants in Somalia since 2011.

And even after the committee spent colossal sums through sitting allowances, food and air travel, the National Assembly unanimously rejected the report of the joint committee of Administration and National Security, and Defence and Foreign Relations, terming it “useless and shallow”.

 The 74-page report authored by 46 legislators brings into question how seriously MPs take their legislative work. According to the report, the joint committee held 20 meetings during which each lawmaker in attendance was paid Sh5,000 in allowances.

The two vice chairpersons earned Sh8,500 per sitting while the two co-chairmen pocketed Sh10,000 each per sitting. The committee was led by Asman Kamama (National Security) and Ndung’u Gethenji (Defence).

In two of the 20 sittings, 21 MPs chose to meet at the five-star Boma Hotel. Inquiries by The Standard indicate that the hotel charges Sh3,800 per person for their conference rooms, which also caters for tea, lunch and stationery.

In addition, the MPs extended the scope of their mandate and flew to the Coast and Mandera to investigate terror incidents, during which they also drew a per diem allowance, all at the expense of taxpayers. These findings come as the country grapples with a ballooning public wage bill and a Parliament that is yet to define its legacy one year on. MPs who spoke to The Standard yesterday called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to fulfill his promise to Kenyans by establishing a judicial commission of inquiry into the September 21 attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall.

Public resources

But they maintained that parliamentary work should not be seen as a waste of public resources.

“It’s regrettable that taxpayers’ money was spent. But I don’t want to look at it as a waste of public resources. The MPs simply lacked the technical facility to go through the evidence,” said Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang.

 The same concerns were expressed by Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata who maintained that it was not the first time Parliament had rejected a committee report.

“No chairman of a committee wishes for this kind of embarrassment,” said Mr Kanga’ta.

But the lawmakers maintained that the Gethenji and Kamama led team was protecting some security chiefs who should take responsibility for the deadly attack that shocked the world.

Mr Kajwang vowed that the 11th Parliament would not be used to protect individuals and insisted that “Kenyans must be told who should go home”.

In its report, the joint committee said there was general information on the impending terrorist attack on all the malls and other strategic interests for the West in Nairobi. However, there was a general laxity and unresponsiveness among the police over the terror alerts.

As a result, MPs are furious that despite the observation, the committee failed to authoritatively state who should take responsibility.

Top security chiefs including National Intelligence Service Director General Michael Gichangi, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi appeared before the committee.

Help country

 On Wednesday, MPs who contributed to debating the report trashed its recommendations, insisting that they had failed to give concrete recommendations that would help the country deal with terrorism. The committee had, for instance, recommended that all refugee camps, including Dadaab and Kakuma, should be closed, referring to them as “terrorist hubs”.

 Aden Duale, the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, criticised the recommendation, pointing out that Kenya is a signatory to the Vienna Convention.

“You just cannot wake up one day and close the refugee camps as recommended in this report,” said Mr Duale.