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Parliament must deal with Uhuru firmly

BUSINESS
By | May 10th 2009

There are many things that could be said of Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s casual concession the Sh9.2 billion puzzle in the Supplementary Estimates could have been due to a ‘typing’ or ‘computer’ error.

Were it not that it is too serious a matter, where Treasury would have comfortably withdrew from Consolidated Fund Sh31 billion instead of Sh26 billion Parliament approved, it would be laughable.

Because of the spirited manner the Deputy Prime Minister defended the figures when an MP first questioned their veracity in the House, and accused him of naivety and ignorance on budgetary issues, one could say he had done his homework.

By language and disposition, self-praise and the posturing of infallibility, and by attacking Speaker Kenneth Marende when he referred the matter to the joint Finance and Budgeting committees, Uhuru cast the image of a man who knew what he was saying.

He said Mr Gitobu Imanyara who raised the issue had been misled by "advisors of questionable professional credibility" to misunderstand simple accounting methods and the rationale for supplementary budget. Then on the day the two committees sat, he told journalists he had goofed, but blamed it on a ‘typing’ or ‘computer’ error.

True, he could be right, there could have been no intention to defraud taxpayers by loading the extra Sh9.2 billion on a lesser figure sought by Treasury and approved by Parliament.

But even to a layman, surely with the myriad technocrats working under him, and his own expertise, and believably working with a toothcomb, it would not have been impossible to single out the discrepancy.

Why? Because, the total amount was just Sh26 billion, and the disputed figure of Sh9.2 billion is 34 per cent of what he sought. What Uhuru conceded could first, point at a more serious problem at the Treasury, he is surrounded by incompetent and negligent technocrats.

Secondly, if the first were true, he is personally not up to the job he was given in January otherwise he would have dug out the inconsistencies before rushing to Parliament.

Anglo Leasing-type contracts

Thirdly, if he is competent to be entrusted with the task of guarding the national granary and did not see the discrepancy, then the question has to be asked about his frame of mind. Does he deploy his intellect, time and energy to his job or is he distracted? Fourthly, has Uhuru forgotten Treasury is as it were when the 18 Anglo Leasing-type contracts were signed and for which Kenya today is faced with risk of unnecessarily paying Sh56 billion – for contravening its contractual obligation? Would it require a rocket scientist to know one or two of the Treasury mandarins can sneak in vote items for payment of Anglo Leasing ‘ghosts’ in Uhuru’s Budget? It has happened before.

Fifthly, and which Uhuru would be grappling with in Parliament, was he up to some mischief? Computers, after all, only processes data fed by human.

Kenyans want to know if there was mischief by Treasury chiefs. The only way to clear Uhuru and restore the integrity of our budget, and confidence in Treasury, is for Parliament to order an independent audit of 2008-2009 Budget. The matter is grave and that is what public interest requires. It is unrealistic to envisage a situation where this can be done with Uhuru still in office.

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