Poison sugar report shot down amid bribery claims

Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Chairman Kanini Kega explains the contents of the parliamentary report on the sugar scandal at the White Rhino hotel in Nyeri county, August 3, 2018, saying it was not doctored and that there were no underhand dealings in its delivery. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Allegations of bribery swirled in Parliament yesterday as MPs shot down the report on contaminated sugar in an acrimonious sitting that was characterised by shouting.

Initial attempts to strengthen the report through amendments – that would have seen Cabinet secretaries Henry Rotich (Treasury) and Adan Mohammed (East African Community) hounded out of office - were roundly defeated in record time.

This was before the majority of MPs launched a spirited onslaught against the entire document while accusing the joint committee of curiously omitting the names of sugar barons.

Some of the lawmakers, who were pushing for the implication of the State officers, stormed out of the session to address the media, angering Speaker Justin Muturi, who said: “The House could consider changing the Standing Orders to deal with indiscipline (of that nature).”

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But it was the claims of bribery and intense lobbying that preceded the afternoon sitting that seemed to have sealed the fate of the document authored by the 38-member committee.

Several MPs confessed to The Standard that money had changed hands to facilitate defeat of the report in what could taint the image of the august House further in the face of growing claims that it had turned into a ‘House of bribes.’

Slightly after 2pm, MPs began trooping to Parliament’s new bar in a peculiar manner that raised concerns they were being influenced over the report. The MPs moved in groups of about five and returned after about two minutes.

Something fishy

Fears that something fishy was cooking were confirmed by a first-time MP who admitted his colleagues were receiving bribes.

“I was called but I have not received any money since I got there when everything had already been dished out,” said the MP.

He said money was being given out to ensure that the report was defeated on the floor of the House on grounds that it targeted Rotich, Adan and Kenya’s High Commissioner to India, Willy Bett – formerly the Agriculture CS.

Another MP said some members were given Sh30,000 while others received Sh20,000. Another said the money was coming from different sources.

“Kenyans need to know the calibre of leaders they have. They are parading themselves to be paid at the expense of those who elected them. Journalists should expose and shame these leaders,” said Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, a member of the committee.

“Shame! How do you get Sh20,000 yet you earn a million? This is really bad,” said Matayos MP Godfrey Odanga as he jeered two of his colleagues as they rushed out, apparently to collect their share of the money.

But one of the MPs retorted: “What is wrong with us getting our share? I am going!”

This prompted more jeering from Nyeri Woman Representative Rajab Mukami, who said: “Shame! Shame! This is bad!”

After the debate, Arati, Justus Murunga (Matungu) and Ayub Savula (Lugari) also accused their colleagues of receiving bribes.

“The members were compromised. What happened in the corridors of Parliament is shameful. I am not afraid of anybody. It is sad that some people received as little as Sh10,000 to shoot down the report,” said Mr Murunga.

“The President cannot finish corruption when we have tribal leanings. Those who paid to save CSs should know they are killing their people with poisonous sugar.”

They called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to probe the matter.

National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale and his Minority counterpart John Mbadi led the MPs in defeating the report that cost the country more than Sh5 million to write.

Duale and Mbadi said there were no proper grounds to implicate the CSs and perhaps occasion their impeachment. They hit out at the joint team co-chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Mandera South MP Adan Haji for indicting Mr Bett without inviting him to defend himself.

“Before you hold somebody personally responsible you must give them a chance to give their side,” said Mbadi, who alluded to the bribery claims when he explained his opposition to the report was not as a result of being “a beneficiary of rumours flying” around.

“The threshold for removal of a minister is so high. Mr Speaker, the report before the House is the property of all MPs so no one should take offence with whatever decision we take,” said Duale.

“Rotich acted on an executive order of the President and a resolution of the Cabinet. He did not sit under a tree to make a decision. This report is trying to impeach CSs through the back door,” he said, adding that the House should never have formed a joint committee.

Kebs’ failure

Mbadi described some of the recommendations as ridiculous, citing one that recommended Mohammed be held responsible for the Kenya Bureau of Standards’ failure to ensure that only safe sugar entered the country.

“This committee failed substantially. We expected explicit names of those importers, those traders. There are no lists of the importers. Why couldn’t you give the names? Why are you hiding the names?” asked Mbadi.

Kega pleaded with MPs to adopt the document, saying his team did its best. “We did our best but the speakers have decided to focus on the Cabinet secretaries. We have brought a good document. We have delivered a bouncing baby boy. It is upon the House to kill the baby or save it. I have washed my hands. It is before you,” said Kega.

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