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‘Hustler jet’ probe: Are Kenyan MPs dependable in war on corruption?

EDITORIAL
By The standard | August 5th 2015

Parliament voted on Tuesday to reject a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on what has come to be known as the 'Hustler's jet'.

This effectively brings the long-standing matter to a close. The four suspended officers in the office of the deputy president accused of irregular practices in the hiring of the jet can now heave a sigh of relief.

However, Parliament's action raises more questions than answers. Further frustrating efforts in the fight against corruption and misuse of public funds.

In 2013, it was claimed that the office of the Deputy President had hired a private jet from Vista jet company without following the laid-down procedures.

The jet was used by Deputy President William Ruto on a tour of four West African countries; Gabon, Congo, Nigeria and Ghana on what the Government said was a mission to share a vision of Kenyan issues and to discuss the issue of setting up an African Rapid Deployment Force.

Some Sh100 million is said to have been spent on hiring the luxury jet, which Mr Ruto and his entourage of 15 used on the mission to West Africa, but the Government has denied this, saying the amount spent was Sh18.5 million.  This raised so much hullabaloo it necessitated the Ababu Namwamba-led Public Accounts Committee to step in and carry out investigations on the claims.

Amid the accusations and denials, the exact amount of money spent and whether the right procedure was followed in procuring the services was lost in the ensuing hoopla.

At the time Mr Namwamba's committee tabled its findings in Parliament in April 2014, there were allegations of committee members getting coerced to amend the report. Pertinent issues raised were not deliberated upon to arrive at a logical conclusion.

The failure by Parliament to adopt the report implies there were no issues of impropriety in the hiring of the jet, yet documents acquired by members of the Press and Parliament's own investigations told a different story. It was interesting to note that members of the disbanded Namwamba-led Public Accounts Committee voted against a report they prepared.

Some of the members deliberately failed to turn up in the House to take the vote, raising serious questions that touch on probity. It is inconceivable that an MP would vote against a report he helped prepare and appended his signature to. Well, some like Nominated MP Johnstone Sakaja, would argue that they now have the benefit of hindsight.

But then that argument defeats reason. Yet the incident seemingly vindicates claims that House committee members cannot be trusted to carry out objective investigations and make useful recommendations. This amid claims that most are guns for hire; pandering up to the highest bidder.

In a way, the MPs are reinforcing the feeling that they are an impediment in the fight against corruption. We trust, however, there are some of the MPs who are conscientious enough and will, if given the opportunity, defy the herd mentality that defines our political class. It is now up to them to stand up and be counted.

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