Raila, Kalonzo fault Ruto over plans to sell critical parastatals

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses Nyamache residents in Kisii County on November 28, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have criticized President William Ruto's plans to privatize key public parastatals.

Speaking at Nyamache in Kisii county on Tuesday during the launch of ODM mass registration, the leaders termed Ruto's bid to privatize Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK) as dangerous and uninformed.

They said the two parastatals were among key installations in the country and selling them to private investors was an act of economic aggression.

Raila argued that selling of KPC and NOCK will see fuel prices skyrocket, something that will not be of benefit for mwananchi who were already burdened with huge taxes amid high cost of living.

"KPC is a strategic investment and selling it to a private investor is the worst mistake and it will make prices of oil double in the country," Raila said.

He promised to reveal more details about the ill-informed privatization after receiving the National Dialogue Report Wednesday.  

The leaders believe the privatization of the parastatals will jeopardize economic security and leave Kenyans at the mercy of private players.

Kalonzo said privatization of the oil companies would compromise the integrity of national security.

On Monday, the national government announced the intention to sell 11 parastatals which are estimated to have a total asset value of more than Sh200 billion.

The sell-out of the institutions is part of the International Monetary Fund-backed reforms that are aimed at restructuring public entities and restructuring public entities and lessening reliance on taxpayers.

"National Oil Corporation is an important installation whose privatization will have far-reaching National Security implications," Wiper leader Kalonzo said.

The two leaders cited the President's privatization policy even as they praised the National Dialogue Committee Report which they said they would unveil today.

Raila took a jibe at Ruto whom he said had failed to tame run-away corruption which had riddled public service and especially the National Treasury.

The two leaders told the President to stop blaming his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta over the woes the country is facing and instead put Kenya Kwanza house in order.

"It is 15 months now and the regime is still blaming Uhuru for their problems. Why then have they failed to cook their own food for Kenyans to eat because they have been around for some time now? He is defeated," said the ODM leader. 

This came as the leaders prepares to make a decision on the report by the National Bi-partisan Dialogue Committee. 

Kalonzo said some of the recommendations would require President Ruto and Raila to sit down and talk about the best way forward.

"Most of the most serious issues will require Raila and Ruto to sit down and find amicable solutions for Kenyans to be relieved of the many problems we compiled," Kalonzo said.

Kalonzo Musyoka, Kisii Governor Simba Arati and Raila Odinga cut a cake at Nyamache Stadium in Kisii County on November 28, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The leaders also claimed that the President's economic policies are unpopular with Kenyans.

Among the issues that they said needed urgent address are the withdrawal or reduction of some of the punitive taxes that had been imposed on Kenyans by Kenya Kwanza government. 

The rivalry between Kisii Governor Simba Arati and some of the local legislators came to the fore as they condemned Senator Richard Onyonka and Woman MP Doris Aburi whom they said were distracting the governor from doing his work.

Arati said those who were against his leadership want him to engage in corruption.

"In the few days I have been Governor, I have seen corruption in its nudity here in Kisii. That's why you see I am fighting the wars that I am fighting now with some people," the governor said.

Raila's trip to Kisii is part of his wider strategy to strengthen his grassroots support in the region.

On Monday, the ODM brigade pitched tent in Kisumu and have also visited Homa Bay and Migori counties in recent days.

On Tuesday, Raila and his allies hinted at challenging the planned privatisation of key parastatals.

This came as the High Court in Nairobi Tuesday blocked the government’s bid to privatise Mombasa and Lamu ports.

Justice Chacha Mwita issued the orders in a case filed by a lobby group, the Taireni Association of Mijikenda, which claimed the government was illegally handing a public utility to private individuals. 

The judge issued the orders until December 6 when the application will be heard.

In the case, Taireni sued Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u, his transport counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen, Attorney General Justin Muturi, and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

The lobby alleged that KPA has no power to dispose of any of the public assets. In seeking the court to stop the sale, the lobby said the authority had advertised, seeking private investors to bid for both ports.

According to the lobby, KPA was relying on public-private partnership law to float for investors.

It asserted that partnership only applies where the government has a new project where investors inject their money, recoup it, and hand it back to the government.

Further, the petitioners argued that taxpayers paid more than Sh90 billion for the construction of the two ports.

Taireni said there is no justification for privatization as KPA has fully functional ports, has tens of thousands of employees, and earns the taxpayers nearly Sh30 billion profit every year.

“It is evidently clear that there are clear public contributions as the said investors are coming to take over already developed or constructed berths and because of these capital contributions, the Public  Procurement and Assets Disposal Act, 2015, was meant to apply and thus the provisions of Section 4(3)(b) the Public Private Partnership Act, which the respondents have tactically failed consider,” argued Taireni. 

The lobby claimed that public participation had not been conducted. It asserted that Kenyans have a say in the promotion of national values and good governance adding Kenyans will lose immensely if the process is allowed to sail through.

“The whole process is tainted with substantive and constitutional impropriety and in furthering justice in the spirit of the constitutionalism, meeting the objects and principles in the constitution for the establishment of the offices of the  Honourable judges as the guarantor of justice and as the protector of the rights of the people and their properties. We urge you to consider this application in the light of protecting public assets and the public capital investment from any plunder, whatsoever,” the lobby argued.