Justin Muturi: Censure an attempt to shift focus from war on graft

Daily Nation

 Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi (right) arrives at Hotel Intercontinental, Nairobi on January 22, 2015 to attend a seminar organised by the Society of Clerks at the Table (SOCATT). FILE PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA

Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi (right) arrives at Hotel Intercontinental, Nairobi on January 22, 2015 to attend a seminar organised by the Society of Clerks at the Table (SOCATT). Mr Muturi is facing a censure motion over his leadership. FILE PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has attributed the censure motion he is facing to political interests keen to derail the House leadership’s efforts to rein in corruption.

Mr Muturi interpreted the motion, the first official challenge to his authority and the first a Speaker is facing since 2005, as a clever tactic, ostensibly by the Opposition, to take attention from the graft claims that have rocked Parliament over the past month.

Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba, the motion’s author, accuses the Speaker of making “contemptuous, malicious and unfounded allegations” against MPs, which “degrades their character and ability”.

The youthful, first-time MP caught his colleagues by surprise when he made his intentions known on Wednesday.

Mr Muturi said the genesis of the motion was the lengthy ruling he made on Tuesday afternoon outlining rules on the management of committees.

This was in response to the now common and widespread claims of MPs using committees as avenues for bribe-taking, coercion and improper contact with people under investigation.

In the ruling, Mr Muturi said committees will from now on have two months to wrap up their investigations and warned against members kicking out Parliamentary staff when they want to discuss certain matters.

He also reminded them to communicate to cabinet secretaries and other people they may want to investigate through the Clerk of the National Assembly. He further directed that MPs who miss four consecutive committee meetings be kicked out of the teams.

“I think it is the forces of evil which are ganging up to scare me but I want to say I cannot be scared because I am on the right path,” said the Speaker in an interview.

On the author of the motion, Mr Muturi said: “Musimba is not a very regular contributor. I don’t know who knows how often he attends sittings. It surprises me that he should be coming now with this motion,” he added.

Even if his communication ruffled the leaders’ feathers, he would stand his ground to restore sanity and integrity.

“Committees must conduct themselves in transparent and accountable ways. Those who are not willing to abide by that had better resign from membership in those committees. We cannot have it both ways,” said Mr Muturi.

APPROVED MOTION

As the Speaker, Mr Muturi bears the responsibility of approving all matters set to be tabled before the House.

Ironically, this is how it became his job to approve the motion by Dr Musimba, and before that, direct him on the proper route to take. The MP had originally wrongly assumed that the Speaker could be “named” in the same manner as an MP, which would give legislators an opportunity to discuss his conduct.

Mr Muturi admitted the situation, which has seen all business on the Order Paper for Tuesday swept aside and replaced by the motion to be discussed over three hours, was a challenge.

“This matter has been captured by other political forces which would want us to remove focus from the issue of fighting corruption,” he said.

Some have interpreted the censure motion as a prelude to the more serious and dramatic motion of no-confidence, which if passed by more than two thirds of MPs, would result in his removal.

When asked how he would take that, Mr Muturi said: “I would not mind about that, even if it’s a prelude. I’m ready to face it for me to be able to fight this scourge.”

By expressing his intention on the floor on Wednesday afternoon, Dr Musimba  also gave advance warning, with MPs such as Majority Leader Aden Duale suggesting they would shoot it down even as they welcomed the opportunity.

As the Speaker and Head of Parliamentary Service Commission, Mr Muturi has a front-row view of on-goings in Parliament, including the iniquities MPs are often involved in.

Apart from the well-documented claims that MPs regularly take bribes to alter reports and the many instances, like the recent one in the Budget and Appropriations Committee, where they bent the law to allocate themselves money, legislators are also involved in “smaller” crimes.

These include taking mileage allowances every week even when they don not travel to their constituencies over the weekend or take flights when they do and presentation of suspect returns on the money allocated to their constituency offices.

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