Crisis in Parliament as bribes rock committees

Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo and Majority Leader Aden Duale before the Powers and Privileges committee, Wednesday. [PHOTOS: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: There is no let-up in the crisis facing the National Assembly as more committees get sucked into allegations of dirty practices that are fast-eroding the credibility of parliamentary oversight.

Never before in the history of the National Assembly has the House found itself entangled in such an unmitigated crisis of integrity, sending the leadership into a panic and triggering bitter public spats among lawmakers.

What started as investigations into graft within the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has slowly taken on a life of its own, with the trail of unsavoury bribery claims catching up with other committees, the latest being the Agriculture committee whose members nearly came to blows over who pocketed fat bribes from sugar barons to sugar-coat a probe report.

In the current investigations, the ghost of corruption is said to have travelled thousands of miles, from Hyderabad, India, where PAC members are alleged to have received favours, to the upmarket Silver Springs Hotel, Nairobi, where a senior State official allegedly dished out money to have his name removed from a damning report arising from investigations into misuse of Sh2.9 billion held in secret accounts under the Office of the President.

In the wake of investigations into PAC, the Agriculture committee imploded in bribery claims, its quarrelsome members engaging in bitter accusations publicly about fat bribes ranging between Sh60 million and Sh100 million.

The committee’s chairman, Adan Nooru, is on the cross after his fellow committee members accused him of receiving Sh4 million to influence the outcome of a report into Mumias Sugar Company’s woes.

Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, Nyando’s Fred Outa and John Kobado (Uriri) alleged that inducements led to the watering down of the report, which nine members have declined to sign.

“We will shoot down that report, let us not trivialise the allegations of corruption, whether its Sh100 or Sh100,000, corruption is corruption,” Mr Kobado said.

However, Mr Nooru has challenged those insisting the money was paid to his bank account to provide evidence of who deposited the money.

“We have been waiting for the MP (Ayub Savula) to appear with more evidence of his claims, and specifically who made the payments, but he has never appeared since then,” said Nooru.

Meanwhile, the Lands committee chairman, Alex Mwiru (Tharaka), is not resting easy for allegedly shielding Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu during investigations into the Karen land saga.

“We must dissolve House committees and reconstitute them anew. At the end of these investigations, the Lands committee, the Agriculture committee and the PAC must go,” said John Mbadi (Suba).

Previously, the Energy committee led by Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo) had feuded with the Public Investment Committee chaired by Adan Keynan (Eldas) on whose mandate it was to investigate the Geothermal Development Company (GDC).

Mr Kamau survived a vote of no confidence by members of his committee after they accused him of seeking to influence investigations into GDC’s activities.

Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes) is at the centre of the current investigations into PAC, with claims she was a conduit for funds meant to bribe members. The revelations, contained in the Nairobi Law Monthly publication, put her at loggerheads with PAC Chairman Ababu Namwamba, with Hansard records revealing a heated committee session where Mbarire accused Namwamba of leaking the information to the publisher of the magazine, Ahmednassir Abdullahi.

Other members who have been caught in the web of the current investigations are Edick Anyanga (Nyatike), Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) and Samuel Arama (Nakuru West). The three feature prominently in a tape released by Namwamba as he sought to clear his name from graft allegations facing his committee. Wednesday, Mr Anyanga challenged the admissibility of the tape recording produced by Namwamba in which an MP is heard admitting to receiving a Sh200,000 bribe.


Anyanga has denied Namwamba’s claims that he received Sh1.5 million from Defence Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo, part of which the PAC chairman alleges was paid to Arama.

House committees normally investigate mega contracts entered into by State corporations, and there are claims this has provided an opportunity for members to seek favours from companies under investigation.

According to National Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo, corruption in the House has slowly evolved from the traditional cash for questions to a more sophisticated system where members get money from big firms that are subject of committee investigations.

“I have been there and I have seen it all,” said Mr Midiwo Wednesday, when he appeared before the Powers and Privileges committee.

Speaker Justin Muturi could be facing another crisis after Kibwezi MP Patrick Musimba sought to discuss the Speaker’s conduct in the House Wednesday. “I ask that he vacate the seat so that we can discuss his conduct,” said Mr Musimba before he was ruled out of order for failing to follow procedure.

Musimba is unhappy with a communication from the Speaker on members’ conduct in the wake of the graft allegations facing the House. “After you provide and follow the road map of the requirement provided in the Constitution, the Speaker will approve that motion,” Majority Leader Aden Duale told Musimba.

In what now appears to have been an effort to save face, the House’s leadership appeared before the Powers and Privileges committee and recommended measures to deal with corruption in the House.

In a rare convergence of opinion, Duale and Midiwo agreed on the need to improve the image of the National Assembly. Duale wants the creation of the office of Administrator of Parliamentary Standards and the expansion of the mandate of the Powers and Privileges committee.

If adopted, the committee’s expansion could strengthen the Speaker’s hand in dealing with graft in the House. The Speaker chairs the committee. However, it could raise questions about the wisdom of creating another office to deal with corruption.

In February, National Assembly leaders publicly admitted that teams delay submitting their reports to doctor them after cutting deals.