Kenya: Audio recordings purportedly demonstrating six MPs had received bribes and setting up members of rival coalitions against each other reportedly helped embattled Ababu Namwamba retain chairmanship of a watchdog committee.
Mr Namwamba, who is also the Budalang'i MP and ODM Secretary General, yesterday narrowly survived ouster from the helm of the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after a night of covert lobbying and cajoling.
In the 26-member committee, 13 MPs voted to impeach Namwamba over claims of bribery and corruption within the committee. Nine MPs voted to save him, and two abstained. Two others, Silvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul) and Stephen Manoti (Bobasi), were absent. The voting was by secret ballot. Those who abstained are Namwamba's deputy Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes, TNA) and Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate, ODM).
Though the majority in yesterday's meeting voted to impeach Namwamba, they were unsuccessful, because the House rules say that more than half of the membership should support a no-confidence motion for it to be successful. His foes needed 14 votes, they got 13.
The smiling chairman, who for a week has been hiding away from the public limelight, emerged from the meeting venue on the first floor of the main Parliament Buildings and declared: "I am blameless, I am as clean as snow!"
But it is not over yet, as Abass Ibrahim (Ijara, ODM), a PAC member has vowed to begin a fresh process of collecting signatures, file a fresh petition and have another vote taken.
"On Monday, we will begin collecting the signatures afresh. The members who were absent will be there the next time. We have to get that vote that got away," said Abass who voted against Namwamba.
Besides, ODM Chairman John Mbadi (Suba) has vowed to file a motion in the House to dissolve PAC, because of the avalanche of allegations against the chairman and against some members," Mbadi told The Standard after the meeting.
"The chairman has also made allegations against six of our members, and the allegations have to do with serious corruption, the committee is too polarised and has lost credibility."
"The watchdog committee of the National Assembly has lost confidence in the chairman because 13 MPs out of 26 voted against him. If members can make allegations that a committee of National Assembly is compromised, then what is left of Parliament?" asked Mbadi. MPs who sat through the meeting revealed that Namwamba employed a three-pronged strategy to scuttle the wave that wanted him kicked out. He spent the better part of the day lobbying. He'd tell the MPs within the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) that this was an attack from their bitter rivals in Jubilee. Then, he would tell the Jubilee MPs that he was being fought by some hardliners within CORD.
Then, he worked with Mbadi so that after Abass had put the case on the table, Mbadi would be the first to speak and ask for evidence. He also reportedly said that if he has to go, then, his deputy will also be jointly accused.
His master-stroke in the closed-door meeting was when he ambushed MPs and played recordings of six MPs and accused them of having taken Sh1.5 million in bribes from the Office of the President. It is at this point, The Standard was told, that there was uproar, and parliamentary orderlies were seen rushing into the meeting room.
"He played recordings of four MPs admitting that they shared a bribe. He had the recordings on his phone," said an MP.
Those that were mentioned are three MPs from ODM and one from URP. The committee members dropped their cloak of anonymity that has been the hallmark of the onslaught against Namwamba.
Manson Nyamweya (South Mugirango, ODM), a staunch supporter of Namwamba said: "We voted, he won!"
Some like Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike, ODM), who was being touted as a possible replacement for Namwamba, "chickened out".
"We came back as ODM together and decided we can't remove our secretary general. He will remain the chairman and the secretary general for many years to come. The allegations were baseless, there was no evidence. If you don't have evidence, forget about it. They should now sober up and come and work with the committee," said Junet Mohammed (Suna East, ODM).
Junet, Namwamba and Nyamweya all sit in PAC. Anyanga said the time had come for the Ethics and anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the issue.
"We want a committee that is disciplined, that can work for Kenyans. When MPs start calling one another names, it becomes ambiguous and sad," said Anyanga.
The Nyatike MP added: "Members have spoken, he is our CORD person. He is supposed to be there, when there are serious allegations against him, and he makes serious allegations against members to divert attention, something needs to be done. I am one of the people who signed the document, but I changed my mind, these people could not substantiate!"
Namwamba was ecstatic. "I have been vindicated. I have been very clear in mind and I am right now, that these are political intrigues with absolutely no substance. I wanted this to come to a formal forum on the Hansard of the National Assembly on record. I wanted to know exactly what the allegations against me were. It is interesting that until today nobody had gone public," said Namwamba.
The PAC chairman added: "Good has triumphed over evil, truth has triumphed over lies and speculation. This is politics at play, politics from within my own home and politics from rivals," he said.
"This was triggered by a very cynical rumour, manufactured by somebody from within political circles and this someone who had ulterior motives cleverly intended to cripple the PAC," he said, Namwamba, also the ODM Secretary General, said a cocktail of politics and vested interests led to the whole scenario and he was ready to be "subject to any inquiry".