Kenya MPs plot to oust committee chair over Afya House scandal

Rachel Nyamai, pharmacy practitioners, parliamentary committee on health chairperson. Trouble is brewing in Parliament over claims of a cover-up in the probe into the Sh5 billion Health ministry scandal. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Trouble is brewing in Parliament over claims of a cover-up in the probe into the Sh5 billion Health ministry scandal.

A number of the members of the Health Committee have signed a petition to kick out chairperson Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South) and her deputy, Robert Pukose (Endebess), accusing them of being used by forces outside Parliament to cover up the scam.

Differences in the committee emerged over plans to invite key suppliers named in an internal audit report of the ministry.

Ms Nyamai is also in the spotlight for allegedly blocking members from asking questions during a committee visit to Mombasa to inspect 99 mobile clinics supplied to the ministry at a cost of Sh1 billion. Some members are now accusing the Jubilee leadership of frustrating the probe.

"We cannot investigate the Afya House scandal with the leadership that we have. We need a new leadership to get to the bottom of this matter... This is one of the gimmicks being used by Jubilee. They don't want the issues to be investigated fully. The current committee leadership needs to step aside," said Stephen Mule (Matungulu), who is among those who have signed the petition.

"I saw the petition, I signed it and by the time I was signing it, there were 16 signatures. We now have 20 members," Mule claimed.

Sources within the 29-member committee confided to The Standard that some members feel that the committee leadership is not keen to invite the suppliers for grilling, although their appearance is crucial to the probe.

"Some members feel that the committee leadership is being pushed not to summon key suppliers who have been mentioned in relation to the scandal. The only way to get some of the powerful suppliers is to remove the current chair and vice-chair who they feel are not keen on the matter," said the source.

Yesterday, a committee meeting in which the MPs had planned to express their displeasure with the leadership aborted after Ms Nyamai failed to show up after she allegedly after got wind of the plot to oust her. She sent a text message to MPs saying the meeting had been put off.

Although the session had been called to grill Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet on the death of a patient at Kenyatta National Hospital late last year, the 'coup' plotters had intended to use it to express their lack of confidence in the committee's leadership.

After waiting for over an hour for Nyamai to turn up, they held an impromptu meeting before walking out to declare that they had pushed their plans to Tuesday next week.

"Wait for Tuesday. That will be the D-Day. The committee is not working properly to investigate money lost in the Health ministry. Sh3 billion is big money and we will go ahead to oust the chair even if the committee clerk cancels the meeting. I don't want to pre-empt details of the petition because they may thwart it," said Fred Outa (Nyando) after the informal meeting.

The committee has so far grilled Health CS Cleopa Mailu and his Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri over the alleged theft at the ministry. Over 10 MPs who attended the morning meeting were angered after the chair failed to turn up.

James Nyikal (Seme) was unhappy that the chair had decided to call off the morning meeting through SMS.

"We cannot be told that there is no meeting through SMS," said Nyikal, who, however, declined to discuss plans to oust the committee leadership.

The members also accused the Jubilee leadership in the House of whipping members to withdraw their signatures from the petition.

But Endebess MP Robert Pukose termed it a case of "corruption fighting back". He said although he is yet to see the petition, the Afya House investigations cannot rest on the shoulders of the chair and the vice-chair alone.

"Personally, I have not seen the petition, but every member has a right to bring a petition. There are rules that guide the process. It could be a case of corruption fighting back, because as a committee we are committed to getting to the bottom of the Afya House matter.

"Let us be objective in these matters, instead of some people being used by unknown forces to scuttle the process. The issue of investigating the matter is not for the chair and vice-chair alone, but for the whole committee," said Pukose.

The development in the Health committee came even as Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter petitioned Speaker Justin Muturi to initiate an independent audit of the Health ministry accounts.