The embattled former Kenya Power boss Ben Chumo yesterday put on a brave face as he sought approval to serve as chairman of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) despite corruption charges facing him.
Mr Chumo has been charged alongside other top managers of the company with conspiracy to commit an offence of economic crime through fraudulent acquisition of faulty transformers.
But appearing before the Finance and National Planning committee chaired by Joseph Limo (Kipkelion East), Chumo said the charges could have been a ploy by his enemies to deny him opportunity to serve in SRC.
32 years and blame
“I could not have waited for 32 years to mess up. I think someone was looking to deny me this opportunity. I really deserve it. I don’t think this challenge (graft charges) should deny me this opportunity,” said Chumo, who served as the power company’s CEO for four years.
The vetting got stormy when Nyali MP Mohamed Ali confronted Chumo for having the guts to seek parliamentary approval while he was still facing corruption charges, and accused him of “fleecing Kenyans” when he worked at the power company.
“"You are in court on corruption charges and you have the guts to sit in front of us and demand a job,” charged Mr Ali.
The MP was however ruled out of order and made to withdraw the remarks by the chairman, who reminded him that he could not conclude that Chumo was corrupt and participated in fleecing the public.
“You cannot conclude that he is a corrupt person. You just came and should have taken time to listen before asking questions that have been responded to. We cannot allow you to take us back. Withdraw the remarks and apologise,” said Mr Limo.
Chumo had earlier said the procurement was done in 2011-2012, when he served as the HR manager and that he was not part of the procurement committee.
“I am not saying that something went wrong, but I was not the CEO. I became the CEO in 2013. I was not a member of the procurement committee as I was in HR (department),” he said.
“I am also being accused of cancelling tenders unprocedurally, when the supplier contracted took a lot of time to deliver the transformers. We made a decision to stop utilisation of the transformers and further supply by the company. The cancellation was consistent with procurement procedures,” he said.
Chumo, who put his net worth at Sh212 million, added that the supplier proceeded to court and the matter was later settled out of court when he had already left.
“I left in 2017 when the matter was still in court. It was agreed that it be settled out of court. The payment was made when I was already out of office,” he told the committee.
Chumo also told the vetting team that he was not after the salary and other benefits (at SRC), but service to the commission, adding that he would resign as the chairman of Egerton University Council, where he currently sits.
Should the committee approve him, President Uhuru Kenyatta will proceed to appoint him to replace Sarah Serem.