By Wilfred Ayaga and Moses Njagih
NAIROBI: What started as corruption claims against Public Accounts Committee ( PAC) Chairman Ababu Namwamba and his members has grown wings and is now threatening the integrity of the entire National Assembly and its leadership. The integrity of Parliament was called into question again Thursday when Namwamba, whose secret recording of an MP dropping names of colleagues who reportedly picked bribes from a senior State official has caused an uproar, accused Speaker Justin Muturi of meddling in investigations. Ads by SensePlus.V2Ad Options It was a day of high-drama Thursday as probe team listened to the recording by Namwamba where adverse claims are made against PAC Vice Chairperson Cecile Mbarire and Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga, who is said to have collected the bribe cash ostensibly to share with PAC members. The two MPs also appeared before the probe team but denied the allegationsbeing made against them on the tape recording that is now going round in social media. The Orange Democratic Movement secretary general, who is fighting to clear his name over allegations he was bribed to alter a report following investigations into Sh2.9 billion funneled out of secret accounts under Office of the President, dragged the Speaker’s name into the investigations by the House Powers and Privileges Committee. The Budalang’i MP accused Muturi of poking his nose into the committee’s investigations. “The Speaker is interfering with this matter. He is expressing too much interest in this matter,” claimed Namwamba.
He particularly took issue with Muturi’s reaction to a letter he had addressed privately to him but which the Speaker was said to be preparing to respond to on the floor of the House. “I state right from the beginning that I am starting to get worried by the inordinate interests that the Speaker is showing in the work of this committee. Why would the Speaker keep on making reactionary or staccato rulings from the chair on matters under interrogation?” Namwamba wondered. His remarks on the Speaker followed a statement by the Powers and Privileges Committee Chairman Moses Cheboi that the Speaker intended to respond on the floor of the House to a damming letter by Namwamba to the Speaker, in which he had cast aspersions on the integrity of several members of PAC. “Why should he respond on the floor of the House about a letter which I wrote to him? He should write back to me directly. There are forces that want to disable the committee before it concludes the work before it,” Namwamba sensationally claimed. Namwamba by extension accused the House Business Committee (HBC), chaired by Muturi, of failing to prioritise reports tabled by the watchdog committee, specifically the ‘Hustlers’ Jet report, which he said he tabled a year ago.
The report covers the controversial hiring of a jet to take Deputy President William Ruto to various African capitals to lobby against the Kenyan trials at The Hague. Namwamba, a lawyer by profession, claimed there were questions hanging as to why the report had never been considered for debate by the HBC, yet PAC was ever being accused of failing to table its investigative reports. Ads by InfoAd Options Ads by SensePlus.V2Ad Options “The ‘Hustlers’ Jet report was tabled on April 24, last year. That is almost one year ago now. The question I want to pose is why has it never been listed in the House for debate?” he asked. Namwamba further wants corruption investigations his committee is undergoing extended to other House committees that he said are tainted by bribery claims. He argued it would be an exercise in futility to only probe the watchdog committee, when the integrity of the entire House was in question due to improprieties in committees. “This is fantastic opportunity to tackle issues of integrity head-on. Every other issue that has impugned on the integrity of this House should be put under similar scrutiny. Let us extend investigations into other committees. I want to hope that the Speaker will extend these investigations to deal with the rest of the questions hanging over this House,” he said. For the first time, the media was allowed into the proceedings, with a number of MPs sympathetic to Namwamba also crowding the small committee room where the proceedings took place. There were dramatic moments after Namwamba played a recording of what he alleged was a confession by Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama that he had received money to share with members of the committee. In the tape, Namwamba is heard conversing with Orange Democratic Movement party leader Raila Odinga, Arama and ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohammed. The content of the tape has been a source of speculation, with Namwamba insisting that it is proof that several members of the committee had received bribes behind his back. Members, however, insisted on knowing the source of the recording, but Namwamba gave little information on it. “Who are the people in the recording? As Ababu, did you know that the recording was taking place? Did the others whose voices are in the tape also know?” Namwamba was challenged to disclose by Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo). The MP, however, declined to reveal the source of the recording.
WOMAN’S VOICE At one point in the recording, a woman’s voice is heard. Asked by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa who the voice belongs to, Namwamba claimed that it belonged to one of the workers at the venue of the conversation.
And in a new twist to the saga, the MP claimed that his life in is danger, alleging that powerful forces wanted to eliminate him. “I want it to be known that as I walk away, I am not entirely safe. I will be visiting the Criminal Investigations Department to raise concerns about my life and that of my family. May it be recorded that I shared these concerns with the committee,” said Namwamba. A trip made by members of the committee to Hyderabad India was one of the highlights of the grilling session, where MPs are alleged to have received favours. Besides Namwamba, those who were in the trip were MPs John Sakwa Bunyasi, Jessica Mbalu, Kyengo Katatha Maweu, Omondi Anyanga, James Bett and Gonzi Rai.
Later, three MPs who had adversely been mentioned by Namwamba as having received Sh1.5 million bribe allegedly given by Defence Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo met the probe committee where they denied the allegations. Mbarire, Anyanga and Kareke Mbiuki denied ever receiving the money from the PS. They accused Namwamba of peddling falsehoods in a bid to win sympathy and be retained in the powerful watchdog committee. Anyanga, who Namwamba alleged was given the money by Iringo at Silver Springs Hotel, denied ever meeting the PS. He also turned the heat on Namwamba over allegations that he had attempted to solicit favours during a probe mission in Hyderabad, India, saying he only expressed anger at how Namwamba handled the booking of accommodation for members. Mbiuki attacked Namwamba’s character and the manner in which he has steered PAC, claiming he has made it a “one-man-show”.