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Senate team saves Chepkwony from impeachment

By WILFRED AYAGA | Jun 4th 2014 | 4 min read
Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony. [PHOTO: FILE]

Kericho, Kenya: Governor Paul Chepkwony survived an impeachment Motion against him after the special Senate committee investigating him cleared him of all the three charges.

Although the committee found he had broken the law by irregularly signing agreements and breaching procurement procedures, it reached the conclusion that these acts did not meet the threshold of impeachment of a governor envisaged in the Constitution.

The 11-member team faulted Chepkwony for contravening various sections of the supreme law, and reprimanded him for ‘poor judgment and lack of professional advice’.

The committee found that the governor had irregularly signed an agreement with a UK-based company, Blue Techs, for the supply of solar power to Kericho County and thereby violated procedures set out in the Public Private Partnerships Act 2013.

It also found that he violated the Public Procurement and Disposal Act by entering into an agreement for the supply of ambulances to the county without having any budgetary provisions for the item.

On the third charge of violating the County Government Act, the county chief was cited for illegally creating offices without the approval of the county public service board.

“By failing to observe these procedural requirements, the governor had exposed the county to potential risks and losses,” the team concluded.

However, the the blew hot and cold even as it cleared him. While letting the governor off the hook, it did not erase the possibility of him being committed to criminal and civil proceedings in future for any acts of omission and commission in the discharge of his responsibilities.

“The committee did not find the governor as an individual hell-bent on violating the law, or abdicating responsibility, but in his drive to achieve certain results, has contravened the Constitution and a series of statutes.

“Considering that the constitutional and statutory provisions on impeachment do not supplant other criminal and civil remedies available in law, it is not the view of the committee that in the present matter, the appropriate remedy for dealing with such a governor is removal from office,” said the report.

The Senate committee found that the three charges facing Chepkwony had not been substantiated, but went ahead to offer a stinging indictment on some of his actions that led to the impeachment Motion against him.

“The Governor had acted in a naïve and ignorant manner, oblivious of the legal regime governing public-private partnership. He rushed to enter into an MoU, thereby committing the county to a retinue of obligations and risks without giving attention to the relevant laws and processes and without consulting the people of Kericho County,” the report said.

The committee went to draw parallels between the impeachment proceedings and those of Embu Governor Martin Wambora.

“Holding the governor of Embu County to account seemed to be a lost cause. In the present case, the special committee finds that the governor has not abdicated his role as a governor. He did not deny his role in the allegations made against him.

“He has, however, breached the law as a result of a combination of factors, including the challenges of navigating the challenges of navigating the transition, poor judgment, in adequate professional advice or over enthusiasm,” said the 101-page report.

Since the committee had been discharged him of all the allegations, according to the House standing orders, the report could not be debated.

When Speaker Ekwe Ethuro ruled that MPs could ventilate on the report, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale stood to oppose, saying the standing orders were clear on the matter.

The Speaker, however, overruled him, arguing that since the matter was of immense public interest, it was important that members ventilate on it.

The members proceeded to give their views on the report, with the chairman, Chris Obure, seeking to defend his committee that it had only performed a balancing act.

“We followed our constitutional mandate and were not influenced by any extra-constitutional factors,” he maintained.

Mutahi Kagwe (Nyeri) said that governors could not be expected to be perfect and that the committee had come up with an objective report.

“Governors cannot be as pure as Ceasar’s wife. We should charge them by the degree of their faults and the steps they take to remedy them,” he said.

Gideon Moi (Baringo) said that the governor had exercised humility through the proceedings.

“I would like to commend the humility of the governor when he was called to present his case. He did it in the most humble and civil manner,” Moi told the House.

One of the far reaching recommendations made by the committee was the creation of the office of county attorney to advice county governments on matters dealing with law and legislation.

“The nature of legal services offered to the governor were of concern to the committee,” the report said.

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