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MPs renew fight for lucrative committees

By Roselyne Obala | February 14th 2021

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Claims of corruption have once again rocked the National Assembly as MPs laid bare concerns of illegal benefits extended to those in perceived lucrative committees in efforts to buy influence.

On Thursday, some MPs cried foul that they are being judged harshly in their respective constituencies as their colleagues enjoyed extra benefits for serving in powerful committees.

The conduct of members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee came to the fore when colleagues raised integrity questions and called for its reconstitution.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was forced to preside over heated debate on a motion by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya amidst claims of rent seeking and receiving illegal incentives from line ministries.

Mosop MP Vincent Tuwei said it is was unfortunate to hear how committee members were benefiting. “Like the Powers and Privileges Committee, what do I stand to gain? What is it?” But the Speaker, who chairs the committee, responded, “Perhaps sitting in my boardroom and enjoying tea.”

Mr Tuwei continued, “I did say last year and the Hansard can bear me witness that there are MPs whose constituencies neighbour mine who are doing development projects. And we are being asked so and so is doing this, and they are taking pride in it.

“It is true about the Transport Committee. Some MPs were bragging to us that they have been given money to a tune of Sh50 million. And when you look at it, shameful activities are taking place in the committee and ministry and we must say no.”

The House received a list of MPs eyeing seats in the Budget and Appropriations Committee. They include Kanini Kega, Moses Lessonet, Benard Shinali, Ruth Mwaniki, Sarah Korere, Samwel Moroto, Fatuma Gedi, James Mugambi, Marselino Arbelle, Emmanuel Wangwe, Naisula Lesuuda, Jude Njomo, Florence Koskey and Mercy Gakuya.

Others are Francis Kimani, Alfred Keter, John Mbadi, Millie Odhiambo, Makali Mulu, Samuel Atandi, Twalib Bady, Mark Nyamita, Paul Abuor, Danson Mwakuwona, Sakwa Bunyasi and Richard Onyonka.

The committee is scheduled to elect its chair and the vice tomorrow. It is populated by pro-handshake member and was chaired by Kega in the last session.

Abuse privileges

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed cautioned MPs against abusing House privileges to scandalise each other.

“When it comes to committees and people using committees to lobby for funding for their constituencies, it happens every day. I urge members to reject this list so that we have representation from other members who have not served in this committee,” said Junet.

He, however, called for the retention of members who have performed well and have the necessary expertise. “We cannot have members who have served for three good years. Some of them have benefitted from projects through that committee.”

Minority Leader John Mbadi said it was ‘untidy’ to respond to his whip as ideally he is the one who is supposed to forward the list but due to time constraints, he signed off.

“In the spirit of disclosure, we did have problems with two names. But we agreed since I have reappointed the same members. Let us not scandalise ourselves. It happens and people lobby,” Mbadi said.

He added, “At that time, we got funding from the Ministry of Education as members of PAC and it helped in school projects. In the committee of Transport, I know there are funds from the fuel levy that go to committee members. There is nothing wrong.”

Ms Odhiambo called for a Speaker’s meeting to deliberate on the matter. “It is unfortunate we are raising such issues on the floor of the House. The leadership of this House should not vote but call for a kamukunji. Sometimes we need leadership.”

The Speaker also warned against blanket condemnation. “It is good to reflect on some of these ideas in the heat of the moment. We once suspended operations of the Budget Committee, but they always say there could be some bad apples here and there.”

During the 11th Parliament, former Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo raised the same concerns that saw the committee disbanded following claims that members had received Sh50 million to support Executive projects.

Junet reminded the House that the matter had forced the House to amend the Standing Orders to allow for the committee’s reconstitution after three years.

“This is very powerful committee because it decides how the national cake is shared. We know what happened in this committee, and the kind of revenue that goes to the constituencies of its members. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.

Later approved

Kimunya, however, stood his ground and defended the list that was later approved. “I have been impeached before for taking a stance and I would be happy to take the same stance to ensure that we have some sense of integrity and decorum in the way committees work,” he said.

The Kipipiri MP argued that he believes when a committee brings a report to the House on any matter, “it is because they have exercised their minds and experience into the matter rather than to go and negotiate for a personal or constituency benefit.”

“Should it appear to us that members are extracting rent in the committees, then we would be the first ones to ask the whips to de-whip those members so that we have a cleaner 12th Parliament.”

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