MPs on a collision course in plan to sell State firms

President William Ruto addresses the 13th Parliament.

President William Ruto addresses the 13th Parliament on September 29, 2022. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A showdown is looming in parliament over the Privatisation Bill, 2023, which seeks to strip MPs of their oversight role in the sale of state-owned corporations.

Opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, which is led by Mr Raila Odinga, has vowed to resist the Bill, setting the stage for bitter a clash with allies of President William Ruto in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

The Bill, which will repeal the Privatisation Act, 2005, gives power to the National Treasury to privatise public entities without the approval of parliament.

It also seeks to establish the Privatisation Authority, which, among other things, will advise the government on all aspects of the privatisation of government firms.

Azimio MPs led by National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and his Senate counterpart Stewart Madzayo claimed some leaders in the government and cartels at Treasury are planning to buy State-owned corporations through their offshore companies.

“The proposed sale of parastatals is not meant to revive the institutions. It is meant to help people in the Kenya Kwanza government who have formed companies in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe,” Mr Wandayi said. “The discussions have been held in many discreet locations and it is just a matter of time before these institutions go,” Mr Wandayi added.

Some of the corporations that the government has earmarked for privatisation include Chemelil Sugar, South Nyanza Sugar, Kabarnet Hotel, Mt Elgon Lodge, Golf Hotel and Nzoia Sugar. Others are Miwani Sugar, Sunset Hotel Kisumu, Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels, Consolidated Bank, Development Bank of Kenya, Agro-Chemical and Food Company, Kenya Wine Agencies, Kenya Meat Commission and public universities.

The MPs said public universities like Egerton, Moi, Maasai Maara and some colleges of the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University are currently being marketed abroad for sale.

In addition, the MPs said they are aware of plans by the government to also sell the ports of Mombasa and Lamu as well as affiliate Kenya Ports Authority installations in Kisumu, Busia, Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori.

“Plans to sell the port of Mombasa and Lamu are complete and they are now just looking for the buyer,” Mr Madzayo said.

Senate minority whip Ledama Ole Kina said no public property can be sold without the approval of parliament.

The MPs accused President Ruto of usurping the oversight role of parliament in approving the Bill, a move they said undermines constitutional provisions on the role of parliament and public participation.

“Article 95 (2) of the constitution grants the National Assembly the mandate to deliberate on and resolve issues of concern to the people. There can be no issue of greater concern to the people of Kenya than disposal of national assets,” Mr Wandayi said.

Public assets

Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said public assets cannot be sold without the involvement of the people’s representatives.

“I can assure you that public participation will be done and what Kenyans decide is what will be enacted into law,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna.

Vihiga senator Godfrey Osotsi urged MPs from both the National Assembly and Senate to “stand firm and oppose the Bill in order to protect the independence of parliament”.