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Great confrontation

By | September 7th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Peter Opiyo and David Ohito

Will President Kibaki be forced to eat humble pie on Justice Aaron Ringera’s reappointment as the Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission?

That is the question as the stage is set for a major confrontation between the Executive and Parliament over Ringera and two of his assistants. The Standard has learnt the Parliamentary Select Committee on Delegated Legislation met on Friday and called for nullification of the reappointments of Ringera as well as those of Ms Fatuma Sichale and Dr Smokin Wanjala, on the basis that by bypassing the KACC Advisory Board and Parliament, the President acted in disregard of the law.

"It was unanimously agreed the three re-appointments be revoked," said a source close to the committee. This would put Parliament in confrontation with the President.

President Mwai Kibaki and Aaron Ringera

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party Orange Democratic Party (ODM), which has the highest number of MPs at 105, opposed the appointments on the ground that their party leader was not consulted. This does not make matters any better for Kibaki who has been roundly condemned for ignoring Parliament.

Complicating matters for him further is the fact that some of his close allies and staunch supporters have faulted him on the decision to renew Ringera’s contract.

Dramatic week

The House committee chaired by Nominated MP Amina Abdalla is expected to meet again today at 3pm to refine the report ready for tabling in the House tomorrow afternoon, the same day Ringera’s term expires. This follows a dramatic week in Parliament that saw the shooting down of an adjournment Bill that would have seen the House go on recess from Tuesday last week to October 21.

And yesterday, in what appeared like a multi-pronged attack on the President’s decision, the KACC Advisory Board looked all set to go full speed to conduct their own process of hiring a new director. The board chaired by LSK boss Okong’o Omogeni is expected to meet tomorrow to re-look at its mandate and possibly advertise for Ringera’s post. According to Omogeni they are yet to receive a response from President and Attorney General Amos Wako on their queries over Ringera’s re-appointment.

"We have not heard anything from the President but that does not stop the board which meets tomorrow from carrying out its mandate," said Omogeni.

Sources in top Government circles divulged to The Standard that there is concern over the turn of evens and the sustained attack on the President over his decision to renew the terms of the directors without involving the board and Parliament.

At the MPs’ disposal is the intention to deny the anti-graft body half its budget to the tune of Sh694 million, a move that would affect KACC’s operations and paint Kibaki’s Government as not keen on fighting graft.

A source close to the strategies being planned by some MPs told us the members are so determined to stamp their authority that they are ready to disband the anti-graft body altogether and put in place a new outfit. This would be done by amending the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003, which created KACC.

Prominent MPs and some ministers are understood to be behind the Bill and are already scratching their heads on the drafting table, just in case both approaches fail.

Economic crimes act

"Should those efforts fail, then a Bill, which is already being worked on, will be published before the end of the week to amend the Anti-corruption and economic crimes Act and send the entire KACC home," said one of the MP behind the move, but sought anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the group.

The MPs pushing for this hard stance say they are reacting to a trend in the Kibaki administration since 2003 and an attempt by key Government officials brought together by current and past corruption to use KACC to protect themselves.

But Mars Group Director Mwalimu Mati, argues that disbanding KACC would be counterproductive and would only benefit the corrupt individuals whose files are in the custody of the anti-graft body.

"A shut down of the body would be counterproductive, it would only benefit the corrupt individuals. These corrupt guys would be delighted at the closure of KACC. Remember KACC has evidence of Anglo Leasing, Goldenberg, pending Bills and other things. Furthermore if it is shut down only Justice minister and the AG have the keys, and can we trust the two with the fight against corruption?" posed Mati.

On denying KACC money, the parliamentary departmental committee on Justice and Legal affairs, through its Chairman and Mandera MP, Abdikadir Mohammed, has already lined up amendments to the Appropriation Bill to deny it Sh1.3 billion in protest of Kibaki’s action. Half of this money, had, however, been authorised in July. Technically, it means MPs can only withhold Sh694 million.

Mati, however, says Parliament should target the salaries of Ringera and the two assistants rather than crippling the entire body, arguing the move would affect the work of hundreds of forensic investigators working at the body.

Chairman of International Commission of Jurists-Kenya, Mr Wilfred Nderitu doubts whether the President can heed the committee’s call but adds that Parliament may have the last laugh if it vows to disband KACC.

"I doubt that the President would yield to pressure since natural reaction is for people to galvanise themselves and justify their actions, as being done by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo... but Parliament can repeal the law and if it chooses to disband KACC it would be easier and perhaps the only opportunity that it can assert itself," said Nderitu.

Stepping down

He further said Ringera could also save the President by stepping down given the high integrity required of an individual holding his office.

The Appropriation Bill, that the MP’s intend to amend, is a legal mechanism that gives the Government authority to withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund.

The committee on delegated legislation is charged with ensuring statutory instruments are laid before the House as may be provided under any written law and scrutinise such instruments to ensure that they are consistent with parent statutes.

KACC Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Aaron Ringera The Appropriation Bill
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