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House tells ministers to end spat

BUSINESS
By | November 11th 2010

By Alex Ndegwa

Parliament has ordered Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu and Public Works Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri to stop their public spat over corruption in the Water Ministry.

Temporary Speaker Phillip Kaloki issued the gag orders yesterday at the request of the chairman of the Lands and Natural Resources committee, Mutava Musyimi.

But even after the order, Kiunjuri later made further allegations against Ngilu. Speaking at Parliament Buildings, the Laikipia East MP named eight companies and a NGO he claimed were doing business with the Water Ministry.

"I challenge her to state what is her association with these companies," he said. He alluded some had been cited in an audit by the Water Services Regulatory Board that unearthed procurement malpractices.

Musyimi sought the Chair’s intervention saying the two ministers are engaged in media wars, yet the allegations of widespread corruption in the Water ministry were the subject of investigation by his committee.

"We have already seen one member and we will be seeing the second tomorrow," said Musyimi.

Overseeing corruption

Kaloki agreed that the actions of the two ministers were in breach of Standing Orders that barred members from discussing matters before the House or Parliamentary Committees until they are concluded.

"If there is an investigation going on it is only fair that members refrain from discussing proceedings of the parliamentary committee outside the House," he said.

"That way you don’t interfere with the investigations and you also preserve the dignity of the House."

Parliament stepped in after the latest war of words between Ngilu and her former assistant.

Kuinjuri has since appeared before Musyimi’s committee to testify after alleging that Ngilu was overseeing corruption in the Water ministry.

On Tuesday Ngilu claimed that Kiunjuri and the Water Board chairman pushed for an additional Sh652 million payment without justification.

She claimed that a company, which is allegedly owned by close associates of Kiunjuri, demanded the additional cash to complete Umaa dam in Kitui even after the consultant engineer evaluated and recommended its rejection.

But Kiunjuri denied the allegations and challenged Ngilu to answer questions he had raised over flawed procurement of dam projects and price inflations amounting to ‘tens of billions of shillings, not to divert attention.

He tabled letters of correspondence copied to the Water PS David Stower as proof ministry officials were aware of the contract variation to Sh1.4 billion. "If all these letters were copied to the PS, how can she still say she was not aware?" Asked Kiunjuri.

The Laikipia East MP had promised to spill more beans yesterday before the Chair’s gag order.

Errant members

Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh said a similar ruling given to Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey and his Assistant Minister Nderitu Mureithi had been disregarded in the past and she asked for stern action against errant members.

Kitui West MP Charles Nyamai asked President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to rein in warring ministers.

Musyimi also sought the Chair’s guidance on Standing Orders that compelled a member to declare personal interest on a matter, which is in conflict with the new Constitution’s provisions on leadership and integrity.

Kaloki said the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the standing orders would be reviewed to conform to it.

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