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War of words in Parliament as Speaker stops debate on BBI funds

 A past parliamentary session in the chambers on May 5 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

A shouting match ensued in Parliament Wednesday when leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto demanded that the government accounts for billions spent to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

During the request for statements at the afternoon's session plenary hearing, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale sought a statement from the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee regarding the alleged misuse and wastage of public funds on the push to amend the Constitution.

Mr Duale said Parliament ought to know whether the monies allegedly running into billions of shillings were public funds.

He urged the Auditor General to move with speed, audit and report on all the accounts of the BBI Steering Committee and Taskforce on Implementation of the BBI.

The MP said that a forensic audit needs to be done so that " the country can know how much was used and where the monies were allocated."

"It is estimated that over Sh30 billion was used by the steering committee, out of which Sh10 billion was used by the steering committee and the task force for public and stakeholder engagements exercises which was known  as collecting views on the bill,’’ he said

Mr Duale further asked the committee to investigate whether the public funds were applied lawfully and in an effective way in accordance to Article 201 (d) of the Constitution.

He also wanted the Principal Secretaries involved with the process to explain how the funds were used.

He also sought to have the committee establish whether the public funds were used in a prudent and responsible way; and whether the public funds were applied lawfully and in an effective way.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale during a National Assembly Public Accounts Committee session on January 25, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

 

"Article 226(5) of the Constitution provides that if the holder of a public office, including a political office, directs or approves the use of public funds contrary to law or instructions, the person is liable for any loss arising from that use and shall make good the loss, whether the person remains the holder of the office or not," he said.

Forensic Audit

The MP said that the only way the public would know the extent that which public funds were used in the BBI would be through a forensic audit.

Mr Duale told Parliament that the matter should not rest until the public funds utilized in rolling out the unconstitutional BBI process are accounted for.

"Further, Senior Government Officers including Principal Secretaries who are also accounting officers spent an estimated Sh20 billion to roll out the illegal project," he submitted.

Duale said that the money had been used imprudently in an illegal process.

He noted that the law compelled accounting officers to monitor, evaluate and oversee the management of public finances in their respective entities, including promoting and enforcing transparency, effective management and accountability.

The MP said the government needed to be accountable to the public for their decisions and actions.

"The Principal Secretaries who authorized the use of public funds and or diverted public funds for the advancement of the unconstitutional BBI process should be held personally liable for the misuse and wastage of public funds," he said.

 Nominated MP David ole Sankok supported the statement and called for swift action on the matter.

"Now that we want to recover this money, where do we recover it from? Is it from the PSs or the handshake brothers?" He posed.

Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang tried to make a point but it became almost impossible to have his views heard.

The acting Speaker Moses Cheboi had a hard time trying to ensure order in the House after Kajwang and Duale clashed forcing the microphones to be turned off by the House.

"Order members," he was heard saying numerous times.

The debate turned into a war of numbers with Mr Kajwang stating he has more numbers than Duale hence he should not try and outsmart everyone.

"Duale should not take it upon himself that he has all the answers to this question. We are all here in this House by virtue that we were elected. After all, I am elected with more votes than him. He was elected by 3,000 votes from Garissa and you come here thinking that you are better than everyone else," he said

After a back and forth session Cheboi discontinued the debate and the House resumed sitting with other matters.

The Supreme Court on Thursday last week declared the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill unconstitutional, putting an end to the almost four-year-long bid to amend the constitution.