CS Chirchir risks Sh500,000 fine if he snubs Senate

Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir. [Samson wire Standard]

Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir risks being fined Sh500,000 if he fails to honour summons by the Senate Energy Committee which is investigating the Embakasi gas explosion that killed at least 10 people and injured more than 300. 

The committee chaired by Nyeri Senator Wahome Wamatinga had invited Chirchir and Energy Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) Director General Daniel Kiptoo over the gas explosion but the CS sent a letter explaining that he was out of the country on official duties. 

Wamatinga said this was a serious matter in which Kenyans wanted to know what the Ministry of Energy and Epra were doing to prevent similar occurrences in the country and how victims are being assisted and it was disappointing for him not to turn up. 

“When we have several people dead and hundreds of others injured that matter should be given the highest priority, we do not understand why the Energy Cabinet Secretary decided to give first priority to other matters at the expense of this which we find unacceptable,” he said. 

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi has already tabled the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2023 in the Senate seeking to enhance the fine imposed on those who fail to appear before Parliament or House committees from Sh500,000 to Sh2 million. 

The Bill seeks to guarantee persons who fail to appear before Parliament and  House committees the right to a fair hearing prior to any adverse action being taken against them according to the law and seeks to provide clarity on how the powers of arrest are to be exercised by Parliament and committees. 

“The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to Article 125 of the Constitution, which grants Parliament the power to summon any person to appear before it, as well as the power to enforce the attendance of witnesses, as well as Article 50 which guarantees the right to a fair hearing,” said Osotsi. 

The Nyeri Senator said that the committee is out to establish why the Energy Ministry and Epra allowed the gas filling station to operate in a residential area and the regulator to reveal locations of such installations across the country. 

Wamatinga revealed that the committee will make physical inspections of these facilities before another disaster happens since cases of gas explosion and operation of illegal LPG filling stations are common across the country due to negligence by state agencies. 

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, who demanded the summoning of Chirchir and Kiptoo said the Energy Ministry and Epra are either incompetent or are simply abdicating their responsibilities of regulating the energy sector and protecting Kenyans from danger. 

Sifuna said Kenyans, especially those in Nairobi are living in danger due to the proliferation of illegal substances and the regulator needs to come up with stringent measures to prevent gas explosions in future. 

“All Kenyans are at risk, it is not only the poor people, we see people opening petrol stations and gas filling plants in residential areas and congested ones for that matter, which I think expose Kenyans to danger, this should not be allowed to happen under our watch,” said Sifuna. 

Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana said the committee should consider a censure motion against Chirchir if he fails to show up before the committee on Tuesday since this a matter of interest to all Kenyans. 

Siaya Senator Oburu Oginga criticized Chirchir for showing contempt to the committee by failing to turn up saying that in other countries the CS could not handle other matters before attending to such a matter of grave concern to the citizens whose lives were at risk. 

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino who attended the meeting as a friend of the committee, said that the death toll from the explosion has reached 10 with more than 300 people injured and all measures need to be put in place to prevent such an occurrence in future. 

On the night of February 6, a truck ferrying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders exploded in Mradi estate in Embakasi, causing deaths, injuries and massive destruction with authorities saying the LPG refilling plant operated without the required approval.