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Break for Deputy President Ruto as MPs reject PAC report on 'Hustler jet'

COUNTIES
By Moses Njagih | August 5th 2015

Deputy President William Ruto has been relieved of the burden of the so-called ‘Hustler jet’ hiring scandal, after a report implicating senior staffers in his office at the time, was thrown out by Members of the National Assembly.

MPs, voting by acclamation, voted to reject the report of the Public Accounts Committee, whose verdict did not favour Mr Ruto’s top aides, led by his suspended Chief of Staff, Maryanne Kitany.

DP Ruto's suspended Chief of Staff, Maryanne Kitany. The move by the National Assembly might mean that Kitany, who was suspended after she was named in a graft report that President Uhuru Kenyatta submitted to Parliament in March, is off the hook. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

This means Ruto is now free of the burden that came with the controversy triggered off by the 2013 hiring of a private jet.

The National Assembly threw out a report by its own watchdog committee that had identified flaws in the procurement of a luxury jet for Deputy President William Ruto and recommended the prosecution of his top aide.

The move by the National Assembly might mean Ruto’s Chief of Staff Marianne Kitany, who has been suspended after she was named in a graft report that President Uhuru Kenyatta submitted to Parliament in March, is off the hook.

Yesterday, the House shot down the motion seeking the adoption of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report, which had indicted Kitany and four other senior managers in Ruto’s office for their roles in the procurement of the so-called ‘Hustler Jet’ used by the DP in his shuttle diplomacy to four African countries against The Hague court process in 2013.

The motion for the report’s adoption was defeated through acclamation when it was placed for the vote after the debate’s close, leading to bitter protests from a section of the Opposition MPs.

Coalition for Reforms and Democracy MPs John Mbadi (Suba), Makali Mulu (Kitui Central) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) faulted some PAC members for going against their initial approval of the report and opting to shoot it down.

“It is a shame that this report was passed by all members of the committee, except one, then on the voting day, some PAC members do not show up or they vote against the same report that they signed to approve,” complained Mbadi, as he sought the Speaker’s ruling on whether that should be allowed of committee members.

Wandayi and Mulu argued committee members who had changed their mind over the report should give reasons for it.

“This report goes to the heart of corruption. If we cannot go to the root cause of why some members have changed their position on their own recommendation then we will be guilty of abetting the vice,” said Wandayi.

Ill motives

But Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso dismissed the protests, saying the matter had to finally be determined by the House and members could not be faulted for their decisions.

“The floor of the House is the final deciding place. Once the majority makes the decision, then we go by it. As to the conscience of members signing the report and changing their positions during voting, that can be canvassed at the committee level,” ruled Laboso.

Her position was also echoed by The National Alliance Nominated MP Johnson Sakaja and Meru Women Representative Florence Kajuju who argued the matter could not be re-introduced once it had been subjected to a vote in the House.

Sakaja said PAC members were free to change their mind about the report once it is tabled in the House.

“Once a report is tabled in the House, it is no longer a property of the respective committee. I know some people had a different interest on the report on the jet but they should not cry sour grapes,” said Sakaja.

The report, that has been before the House for the last 14 months since it was tabled on April 24 last year, accused Kitany of complicity in the manner in which the jet’s procurement was handled, recommending further investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) against her.

“The buck, accordingly, stops with her in respect of the performance of members of staff under her watch,” read the report.

It added: “EACC should investigate her for dereliction of duty, inertia and possible conspiracy to defraud Government and/or cover up the same”

The staff in reference are those the report found to have flouted the Public Procurement Oversight Authority rules on the matter.

The report says the four officers — Abdul Mwaserah (administrative secretary), Evans Nyachio (senior assistant director of supply chain management), Paul Kamau (senior finance officer) and Simon Okoth (supply chain management officer) — were involved in acts of omission and commission, “that were consistent with a well-choreographed scheme to circumvent procurement rules”.

The report had portrayed Kitany as the lead actor in the alleged conspiracy. She had been accused of misleading PAC on the loss of critical documents, the Local Purchase Orders and Local Service Orders, and claiming to have ordered investigations into the loss when in actual fact nothing had been done.

The documents, the committee then chaired by Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, argued, would have helped them establish the actual costs of hiring the luxurious jet.

Okoth was named in the report as the prime suspect in the alleged loss of the documents and Mwasera and Nyachio were named as his accomplices.

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