Linturi's fate lies in the hands of 11-member House committee

 Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [File, Standard]

Eleven members of a select parliamentary committee now decide the fate of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi after the House on Thursday voted in favour of a motion to impeach him.

During the debate, MPs held Linturi’s feet to the fire even as Kenya Kwanza legislators defied their party line to join their Azimio counterparts in recommending the sacking of the CS and the subsequent formation of the select committee to investigate accusations levelled against him.

Out of 188 legislators who cast their vote, 149 voted in favour of the motion, 36 against, while 3 MPs abstained from voting.

The committee consists of six members from parties affiliated to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, 4 members from Azimio and one member from Jubilee Party; Naomi Jillo Waqo (Marsabit Women Rep), Robert Mbui (Kathiani), Rachael Nyamai (Kitui West), Samuel Kiprono Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) and George Murungara (Tharaka).

Others are T J Kajwang (Ruaraka), Moses Malulu Injendi (Malava) Jane Maina (Kirinyaga Women Rep), Kassim Tandaza (Matuga), Catherine Omanyo (Busia Women Rep) and Yusuf Farah (Wajir West).

“The select committee will have ten days to investigate the proposed dismissal of Mithika Linturi as the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock and present a report to this House,” said National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula.

“The law provides that in the event the select committee finds any of the allegations against the CS unsubstantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of that allegation. If the allegations are substantiated, however, the CS will be allowed to present his case,” he added.  

Notably, Linturi is now facing a double-barreled gun for he not only has to contend with the newly formed select committee but also the Agriculture committee which had already commenced a probe into the fake fertiliser scandal, which had roped in the names of key government officials and agencies.

Bumula MP Jack Wamboka had sought to have the CS impeached over accusations of violating various articles of the Constitution by approving the procurement and distribution of fake fertiliser by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

He was also accused of abuse of office and going against sections of the penal code following revelations that Linturi ordered the closure of KEL Chemicals Company and declared it a crime scene following the company’s Chief Operating Officer Devesh Patel’s refusal to participate in a staged press conference where he (Devesh) was to take the fall for the fake fertiliser.

Under the provision of gross misconduct, the CS is accused of getting into a public spat with journalists who unearthed the fraudulent fertiliser scam, storming into manufacturing plants and purporting to revoke licenses all without conducting proper investigations or providing any clear policy decisions from the ministry on the matter.

He is also cited for failure to demonstrate professionalism in carrying out duties of the office “in a manner that maintains public confidence in the integrity of the office, amounts to gross misconduct contrary to section 11(a) of the Leadership and Integrity Act.”

Further, the CS was accused of submitting false information to a Departmental committee of the National Assembly on the type of fertiliser distributed to farmers and its purpose, contrary to section 29 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, Cap 185C.

During the morning session, the debate on Linturi’s ouster was characterised by a spirited attempt by a section of the legislators to save him from the guillotine by discrediting the motion as tabled by Wamboka, while another section appealed to the plight of farmers.

Led by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa, the leaders keen on saving Linturi clung to claims that the motion went against the Constitution and that it lacked evidence linking him to the manufacture and distribution of fake fertilizer.

“The motion has failed to show us the nexus between Linturi and the procurement processes at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). It also did not show us any violation of the law or a section of the Constitution by Linturi. In line with Standing Order 64 this motion also falls flat and contrary to our constitution.,” said Ichungw’ah.  

And while reiterating that the Agriculture committee was also investigating the issue on fake fertiliser, the Majority Leader urged the MPs to suspend debate on the ouster motion and wait for a detailed report from the House team.

“This motion is a decoy to make sure that we hide those that are ultimately culpable by derailing the investigation by the Agriculture committee,” said Ichungwah.

Tharaka MP George Murugara submitted that the House risked making a premature decision by proceeding with the impeachment motion, given that the matter was already before other investigative agencies such as the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

“This matter is seized by Parliament. It is premature. It was brought to Agriculture Committee and the committee is still dealing with it…Can a CS be held accountable for a responsibility that is handled by other officials? I urge the House to reject this process of guillotine,” said Murugara.

His position was supported by Nominated MP Sabina Chege who said that the Agriculture Committee had established there were persons who should be held liable other than the CS.

Central Imenti MP Moses Kirima opposed the motion saying: “This motion does not meet the threshold to impeach a CS. It is just based on generalities. The CS has nothing to do with the manufacture, or distribution of the fertiliser. He deals with policy. Everyone involved must carry their own cross.”

On the flip side, a section of members led by Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi supported the motion and pressed for Linturi’s ouster.

“Having scrutinised in detail the documents presented, I am more than convinced that Linturi has fallen short of the requirements of the Constitution as holder of office. Wamboka has clearly demonstrated a linkage between the actions of Linturi and grounds for impeachment as listed in article 152 of the Constitution,” said Wandayi.

“Somebody is actually sabotaging the food security of this country and therefore the CS cannot feign ignorance… This is not a matter of politics between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio, it’s about the very survival of this country,” he added.

Nominated MP John Mbadi said: “The only way justice can be done on this matter is to push it forward to a select committee. How else are we going to find out whether the allegations leveled against him are genuine if we don’t do that?... Stopping this process at this stage would be careless and reckless and would demonstrate this House as one that does not know what it is doing.”

North Imenti MP Abdul Rahim accused unnamed persons of sabotaging Linturi, noting that there was a ploy by powerful individuals to have the CS take fall for those culpable.

“We should lay the blame where it is and not at the feet of the CS. Linturi’s civil suits and family suits should have nothing to do with his impeachment despite them being listed as grounds by Mr Wamboka. This motion is not going anywhere. We are with the CS because he is not culpable and we will make sure those culpable are held to account,” said Rahim.

Nyaribari Masaba MP Daniel Manduku also threw his weight behind the motion saying, “we expect the President to take action immediately if this House does not get Mr Linturi out. Our agriculture sector has faced a serious downtime and it is only the president that can rectify this. Linturi has served for the past three years but has had no transformative ideas to help the sector grow.”