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Why MPs united against Lumumba

BUSINESS
By | August 29th 2011

By David Ohito

The crusade by Members of Parliament to remove Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director PLO Lumumba is an act of vengeance coated with sweet-sounding promises, like a re-invigorated war against graft.

It also emerged Lumumba and his top officers will cost the taxpayer at least Sh500 million to be removed just a year after they were given their current positions. This is because taxpayers will have to fork out the millions in compensation for the period of unserved terms. The ordinary staff will also have to be paid in line with their contractual agreements following Parliament’s action last week.

The momentum to get PLO out of Integrity Centre is reportedly driven by the anger they hold against him for allegedly exposing them to public ridicule, turning the anti-graft searchlight solely on their colleagues, and demonstrating that he may not give many of them clearance certificates to run for re-election next year.

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director PLO Lumumba

Enquiries within the political corridors revealed ministers, too, are deep in the scheme, which incidentally was rubber-stamped by Cabinet. They are unhappy over what they view as Lumumba’s treacherous acts of inciting the public against them and damaging their credibility.

For example, they accuse Lumumba of allegedly tipping the media every time high profile suspects were summoned to KACC for questioning — thereby undermining their credibility in public. They also claimed some of the accusations levelled against MPs were exaggerated and gave the example of KACC claims Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka spent Sh130 million from the Kitutu Masaba CDF kitty. The MPs argued that no CDF kitty was allocated such large amounts of money and those claims could have been politically motivated.

It is also alleged that KACC officers made comments to suggest that a minister faked illness to avoid arrest, a fact they say they found demeaning and malicious.

The MPs also are contemptuous of Lumumba’s engagement in a public protest by lawyers against corruption and frustration at the ministry of Lands. They argue Lumumba should instead have used his office to unearth and tame corruption at Ardhi House.

Also stealing attention is the fate of big-time corruption cases KACC was investigating, such as the Anglo-Leasing scandal if KACC is disbanded and a new body set up without any respect for the need for continuity.

Replacing KACC

There was also the latest saga between Lumumba and Assistant Minister Cecily Mbarire after the KACC director claimed Mbarire’s husband attempted to bribe him with Sh100, 000 at a time when his company was under investigations.

In Parliament, it was an open secret that the MPs were united in ensuring Lumumba’s term comes to an end as quickly as possible. Even before the Bill replacing KACC was taken to the august House, it was apparent that his days were numbered.

Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh said it was shocking that those earning huge salaries were "extorting", implying Lumumba was using his office to fundraise for a philanthropic foundation he runs. She added Lumumba, a gifted public speaker, was full of rhetoric with little action.

Assistant Minister Peter Munya, who was perhaps referring to the Onyonka case, argued Lumumba was busy following CDF expenditure.

ODM Chief Whip Jackoyo Midiwo was also overheard saying: "Leo lazima Lumumba aende nyumbani." (Lumumba must go home today)

During debate in Parliament, the MPs opposed amendments that could have given the head of the new anti-graft body security of tenure just like the Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions.

It now turns out the MPs opposed the amendment because they would rather have a CEO against whose head they can hold a gun and blackmail rather than an independent person adept at making tough decisions and who has the courage to take on ministers and backbenchers alike.

Attempt by Gichugu MP Martha Karua to move an amendment to have the four directors of KACC remain in office temporarily to protect sensitive files was defeated. Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat pointedly said: "I have seen the transitional clauses on the staff. I think we should agree that for senior staff, including the director, we must do a fresh advertisement, so that we get the right people. I believe there is a problem in the current system."

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni tellingly argued: "The issue of transiting all the staff to a new commission cannot be allowed. We must deal with them because this is an opportunity that may not come our way again."

Water Minister Charity Ngilu, who has been subjected to KACC investigations, said: "I am very happy that we all seem to be united that we are not going to allow the same body to investigate and prosecute because they can abuse those powers. If the current person who is sitting as the director was going to be given those powers I do not think there would be anybody sitting in this Parliament."

Minister Sam Ongeri, who has also been subject of investigations by KACC over free primary education’s missing millions, said: "You cannot give somebody the opportunity to investigate, prosecute and the next thing is to pronounce judgment on you."

Transport’s Amos Kimunya argued KACC had failed in its mandate and it was no longer tenable to continue paying officials hefty salaries.

Gwassi MP John Mbadi said, "The person we have in this body is a letdown." Assistant Minister Peter Munya said KACC was busy hounding MPs over CDF funds "as if they run it when there are accounting officers in the CDF offices."

Articulate issues

On the Mbarire bribery claims, Education Assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny accused the KACC of hounding MPs under the guise of investigating graft. "It is sad for this country if the people who are given the job of fighting corruption can go around to look for money from us yet they have the biggest salaries," he lamented.

Shebesh also added: "The man, whose name I cannot mention, was vetted by this House and selected because of an impression he created that he speaks good English and can articulate issues. We can now see where that has taken us."

The current KACC office led by Lumumba has been in office for barely one year, having been sworn in on August 6, 2010.

The Director is Dr PLO Lumumba while Dr John Mutonyi is Deputy Director in charge of Investigations and Asset Tracking. Prof Jane Onsongo is the Assistant Director in charge of Education while lawyer Pravin Bowry is the Assistant Director for Legal Services and Asset Recovery.

Wilson Shollei is the Assistant Director in charge of Finance and Administration. They are all set to leave office. The Anti-Corruption and Ethics Act was passed in Parliament on Friday evening effectively killing KACC and making all positions in the institution technically vacant.

Last night President Kibaki signed into law 15 constitutinal Bills passed las week, including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Bill, 2011.

However, former Kabete MP Paul Muite said there was no urgency in passing the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act and collapsing an existing institution which could be reformed over time.

Mr Mwalimu Mati of Mars Group also observed that KACC was making tremendous progress on Anglo-Leasing investigations. He said the anti-graft body successfully moved to court and secured grounds for seeking legal assistance in the scam before the move to disband it.

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