Allow committee investigating Linturi to come up with objective report

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Recent deliberations by MPs on whether to impeach Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi or not, raise ethical questions.

In the post-August 2022 election period, elected leaders should have leveled the divide between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio La Umoja as opponents, and come together as leaders. Unfortunately, they have chosen to propagate the political divide by acting and reasoning along party and ethnic lines.

In their spirited attempts to exonerate Mr Linturi from taking responsibility for the fake fertiliser that has raised public uproar, Kimani Ichung'wah, Leader of Majority in Parliament, and nominated MP Sabina Chege made submissions that must be called out. At the tail end of his argument, Mr Ichung'wah urged Bumula MP Jack Wamboka to withdraw the impeachment motion and save himself embarrassment. 

Not surprisingly, such haughtiness is typical of Ichung'wah as seen in his dismissive responses to critical national issues. The import of his seemingly innocuous warning is that, truth notwithstanding, Kenya Kwanza legislators will be coerced by the Executive into saving Linturi from the axe for political expediency.

The passage of the Finance Bill 2023 that has generated a lot of heat attests to this. Kenya Kwanza MPs have become the quintessential conveyor belt for the executive’s wiles requiring approval by the august House. Parliament, therefore, cannot be trusted to make objective rulings.

It was dishonest of Ichung'wah to claim that Mr Wamboka’s impeachment motion was solely based on suspect newspaper stories. Yet, even if that were true, Parliament has never before raised a finger to investigate a scandal or corruption unless the media raised the issue.

The ubiquitous cartels that call the shots tried to put a lid on the fake fertiliser stories, but widespread farmers’ complaints highlighted by both mainstream and social media denied them that luxury. 

Ichung'wah insulted Kenyans by belittling the impeachment motion and denigrating it as a product of newspaper gossip columns. Food security is a matter of life and death, thus, anybody out to sabotage the agriculture sector is an economic saboteur who should face the noose. 

Ms Chege’s attempts to divert attention from Linturi by apportioning blame to the National Cereals and Produce Board and Kenya Bureau of Standards were pathetic. As a member of Parliament’s Agriculture committee, it was premature for her to make such claims before conclusive investigations by her committee are tabled. Linturi is the Agriculture CS, NCPB’s parent ministry, hence the buck stops with him through acts of commission or omission.

The only redeeming thing about the parliamentary debate is that there was no denial of fake fertiliser being in the market. The energy expended by some diehard Kenya Kwanza MPs in absolving Linturi of blame should be channelled into smoking out those sabotaging government plans to shore up our agricultural production.

The parliamentary committee selected to investigate Linturi should avoid an encore of  the 2018 charade on imported, mercury-laced sugar. During the shambolic investigations, MPs turned on each other, trading accusations of bribery that resulted in the report on the adulterated sugar being rejected by the House.

In 2015, accusations of corruption within the Public Accounts and Agricuture committees of Parliament resulted in their dissolution on recommendation of the Powers and Privileges Committee.

In the same year, President Uhuru Kenyatta submitted to Parliament a list of 29 MPs in the Agriculture Committee who had been accused of receiving Sh60 million to expunge the names of former Mumias Sugar Company managers from an adverse report on the sugar industry.

The rules of fair judgment must be observed. If Linturi’s hands are clean, he should be absolved. However, it would be injudicious to cover wrongs just because the person on the receiving end is a blue-eyed boy of the establishment.