Linturi not out of the woods as MPs demand probe over graft claims

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi (left) before the Select Committee on May 9, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi might have been saved from the impeachment bid but he is still not in the clear yet.

Members of Parliament from across the political divide have now joined hands in the push to have the CS and members of the Select Committee that let him off the hook investigated over alleged impropriety.

The Cabinet Secretary is also still under probe by investigative agencies including the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Agriculture Committees, in the National Assembly and the Senate, over his role in the procurement and distribution of fake fertiliser to farmers.

At the centre of the renewed bid to sanction Linturi are allegations that the majority of the members of the Select Committee were bribed, accusations that if proven to be true, could bring disrepute to the August House.

But Leader of Majority Kimani Ichungwa poured cold water on the bribery allegations and accused Bumula MP Jack Wamboka of rushing the ouster motion.

Inchungwa supported the verdict of the committee and accused Wamboka of trying to oust Linturi based on hearsay.

“This is a lesson to learn for us as a House. If we propose motions to impeach Cabinet Secretaries for the sake of it, we will make this House extremely impotent. We will become impotent. Because we are acting at the whim of the moment, we are not patient to get substantive issues that can truly impeach a CS,” he said.

The bribery allegations arose after seven out of 11 members of the House team that was formed to investigate the grounds for a motion to dismiss the CS voted to save him.

The committee members who voted in favour of saving the CS were Marasabit Woman Rep Naomi Waqo who was the chairperson, MPs George Murugara (Tharaka), Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi), Malulu Injendi (Malava), Njeri Maina (Kirinyaga), Kassim Tandaza (Matuga) and Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai.

Only four members MPs Robert Mbui (Kathiani), Catherine Omanyo (Busia Women Rep), T J Kajwang (Ruaraka), and Yusuf Farah (Wajir West) were of a dissenting opinion.

Led by the mover of the ouster motion, Wamboka, the legislators want allegations that Linturi bribed his way to freedom investigated and members implicated brought to book.

“I know and I can confirm that the verdict given yesterday was because some members of the Committee were given money. I still don’t understand how they could betray Kenyan farmers because of Sh5 million,” he said.

Wamboka now says that the House will be taking other measures to deal with the CS given that 149 members had already expressed a vote of no confidence against him.

This, he asserted, would be through ways such as not approving the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and urging Kenya’s development partners not to deal with Linturi.

Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi questioned the proceedings and verdicts issued by the 11-member committee accusing it of delivering injustice.

“If the committee wanted to do an open trial, then there was no reason to deny witnesses an opportunity to present their evidence against the CS,” he said.

Migori Women Rep Fatuma Mohammed was convinced that given the evidence adduced by farmers, the mood of the House was that Linturi was guilty and should have been sent packing.

Busia Women Rep Catherine Omanyo narrated how she was allegedly approached by unnamed individuals with money in a bid to sway her verdict against the CS when it was time to vote.

“As late as Sunday 11pm there were people following me and offering me money to try and influence how I vote. They didn’t know that as a committee we had already voted and I had already made my decision,” said Omanyo albeit without disclosing how much she was offered.

She also told of instances where her colleagues allegedly moved to block justice during the trial much to the chagrin of farmers.

Nominated MP John Mbadi spoke of a wider plot by Kenya Kwanza’s leadership to save the CS from ouster and avert the impending embarrassment on the administration.

“If you look at the way that committee was constituted, it is clear that Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa had the intention of saving Linturi. All those who have gone against the House voted to save Linturi when the matter was on the floor,” he said.

And while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly on Monday, leader of Minority Opiyo Wandayi said that the will of the House had been subverted.

“It was not the intention of the drafters of the Constitution that the decision of the committee should countermand the overwhelming decision of this House,” he averred.

But Majority Chief Whip Sylvanus Osoro said that the evidence provided by Wamboka was insufficient to move the committee into siding with him.

“All the proceedings were in full glare of the camera, we all watched what was happening. It was basically drama,” said Osoro.