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When watchdogs can’t bite

BETWEEN THE SHEETS
By | March 1st 2009

By Gakuu Mathenge

Parliament’s ability to fight corruption has been crippled by economic crimes suspects who have taken over important House Committees charged with the task of ensuring accountability, an MP has said.

"Parliament has become a house of mafia. Persons associated with past economic crimes have infested important House committees.

"Parliament cannot fight graft, when its organs are steered by people facing court cases, under investigations, or blacklisted by previous House committees," Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri said.

Parliament had become captive to three ‘evil’ forces, said Kiunjuri, that it must deal with to achieve progress:

"First, political horse-trading between PNU and ODM, regardless of pledges made to voters about fighting economic crimes and crimes against humanity, is in top gear. Focus has now shifted to building alliances to win 2012 General Election.

"Second, political blackmail by corrupt networks ensures President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga take no action against graft kingpins in their ranks for fear of losing tribal support.

"Finally, forces associated with economic crimes of the past have ganged up to defeat the cause of justice. This lot is not bribed, they have common interests to protect inside House Committees," Kiunjuri said.

Kiunjuri spoke during an interview on whether Parliament, as the ultimate duty bearer, could be trusted to stamp out graft.

The events of the last two weeks, Kiunjuri said, had left many Kenyans feeling betrayed.

"Parliament must lead the way and must stop whining. It is like a baby-sitter crying with the child. Last week, the august House confirmed to Kenyans it had lost faith in institutions like the Judiciary. We should overhaul the Judiciary for starters to restore its credibility," he said.

Strange behaviour

The third term legislator and leader of Grand National Union party, was among 17 MPs from central Kenya, a region with more than 40 MPs, out of the 22 who supported the unsuccessful Motion of censure against Agriculture Minister William Ruto.

"The behaviour of my colleagues from central Kenya was strange. They were in the House, but when it came to voting they retreated to the common room to follow events on TV. I assure them the maize saga will soon come to haunt them," he said, before warning:

"Each of us will have to account to the voters. How one could not possibly tell there was corruption in selling maize, with a fixed price, to brokers, who then sold it to millers, making millions, profits that the millers passed on to the consumers, and which explains the high cost of maize flour?"

Asked why some MPs chose to hide than vote either for or against the Motion, Kiunjuri replied: "Twenty-one MPs and nine wives of MPs are involved in the maize saga."

When reached for comment, Safina leader Paul Muite said Parliament’s role in fighting corruption is undermined by the heavy Executive presence in the House.

"Most graft involves the Executive, which is heavily represented in Parliament by Ministers and Assistant Ministers. They are the gatekeepers of corruption opportunities. Thieves use the loot to influence debate and voting when corruption issues come up," Muite said.

The former Kikuyu MP advises change of tack in fighting corruption. To fight graft, the former Kikuyu MP urges Kenyans to take on President Kibaki over grand corruption.

Grand Regency sale

"For instance, we should start asking President Kibaki to disclose the contents of his discussion with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi, over the Grand Regency Hotel, which eventually led to the controversial sale of the hotel built with public funds," he said.

"The Prime Minister co-ordinates and supervises Government functions by chairing important Cabinet committees. He, too, should tell Kenyans how these deals were made. It is easier than forming committees and commissions," he added.

"We all witnessed the sham that were party nominations and parliamentary elections in 2007. It is futile to expect beneficiaries of fraud to fight corruption," former Siakago MP Justin Muturi says.

Nambale MP and Finance Committee chairman Chris Okemo, says contradictions between appointing ministers from Parliament, and the possible conflicts of interests and enforcing accountability are apparent but the cure lies in the constitutional review.

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