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MPs question US trip to get details on plane crash

By Roselyne Obala | October 23rd 2021

Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chair Senator Okong’o Omogeni. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Foreign travels by MPs have caused a heated debate in the Senate over cost implications to taxpayers.

The matter came up when Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chair Senator Okong’o Omogeni tabled a report on its inquiry into the plight of families of victims of Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed and killed 157 on board.

However, what irked the senators was what took their colleagues on the committee to Seattle, US, to look for information on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which they could have got in Ethiopia or by emailing the airline.

“You cannot travel to Seattle and hold all these meetings with all these people and come out with zero findings and zero recommendation on a petition as important as this one,” said Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua.

“Then, in fact, the committee lacks the moral authority to hold the government to account for their silence in providing justice to these people. This is a report that should be rejected in total.”

Wreckage is seen at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. [Reuters]

Families of the 32 Kenyans who were among the passengers killed in the crash have been seeking justice and even petitioned Parliament on their compensation.

The plane crashed on March 10, 2019, near Bishoftu. The accident raised questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a model that also crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, forcing Boeing to ground them.

Senators Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma), George Khaniri (Vihiga) and Petronilla Were (nominated) faulted the committee members over a shoddy report.

“Is it in order for the committee to spend public money to travel to the US, headquarters of Boeing, and then bring no finding? This is a serious matter,” asked Wetang’ula.

“If the petitioners were demanding that they needed counselling because of trauma, and death certificates because of compensation, why did committee go to Seattle?”

Omogeni defended the team, saying its mandate was limited to the allegations by the petitioners that the government had failed to process death certificates of the victims.

Relatives leave the information centre following the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, at the JKIA in Nairobi, March 10, 2019. [Reuters]

In reports by the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o, domestic and foreign travels for benchmarking or oversight duties are a major concern.

Dr Nyakang’o last week said MPs and senators spent Sh703.1 million on foreign trips in three months to June - the highest quarterly spend since 2013.

Spending on air tickets, accommodation and allowances shot up by 1,309.8 per cent or 14 times, from the Sh49.87 million lawmakers spent on foreign trips in the first quarter.

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