MPs summon Yatani, Mucheru, Kinyua over Telkom purchase
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies have been summoned over the controversial Telkom sale even as it emerged that any dispute on the Sh6.09 billion deal would see Kenya dragged to London for a court hearing.
Members of Parliament have summoned former National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to answer questions over the Sh6.09 billion acquisition of the loss-making Telkom Kenya from private equity fund Helios Investment Partners.
MPs have also summoned former ICT CS Joe Mucheru, former Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and former Treasury Principal Secretary Julius Muia over the deal that is under probe by the lawmakers.
The probe by a joint sitting of the National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning and Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation comes after MPs failed to approve the expenditure that was drawn under Article 223 of the Constitution.
So far, Controller of Budget Dr Margaret Nyakang’o, Telkom Kenya chief executive Mugo Kibati, immediate former Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto and Business Registration Service director-general Kenneth Gathuma have already appeared before the joint committee to shed more light on the Telkom sale deal.
MPs have promised to leave no stone unturned in the inquiry to establish the circumstances that led to the hurried nature of the government’s acquisition of the telco and to probe whether taxpayers got value for money and if the right procedure was followed.
“On Wednesday (next week) at 2.30 pm we have sent an invitation to Ambassador Ukur Yatani the former Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury who authorised all these transactions. The same day at 4.30 pm, we have invited Julius Muia the former Treasury PS,” said Molo MP Kuria Kimani, who is also the chairman of the Finance Committee.
London Court of International Arbitration
This comes even as it has emerged that Kenya could be dragged to a London court should its Sh6.09 billion purchase deal of Telkom Kenya from private equity fund Helios Investment Partners be terminated.
The sale agreement between Jamhuri Holdings Limited (JHL) – which is fully owned by Helios – and the National Treasury that was submitted to Parliament on Tuesday shows disputes arising from the deal will be referred to the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).
It is common for contracts between investors and State-owned entities especially in Africa to provide for disputes to be referred to international arbitrators such as LCIA, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and the International Chamber of Commerce that are seen as less prone to political interference compared to arbitration in host States.
“Any dispute arising out of or in connection with this agreement, including any question regarding its existence, validity or termination shall be referred to and finally resolved by arbitration under the London Court of International Arbitration Rule (the Rule), which rules are deemed to be incorporated by reference into this clause,” says the agreement.
“The seat or legal place of arbitration shall be in London in the United Kingdom. The venue of the arbitration shall be in London in the UK,” it says.
When she appeared before the inquiry team on Tuesday, Dr Nyakang’o told the joint committee that the government had a deadline of July 29 to beat to pay the money for it to fully acquire Telkom after which the deal would have become null and void.
The budget controller was put to task over her approval for the National Treasury to withdraw money from public coffers to complete the transaction without the approval of Parliament.
Ms Nyakang’o was also at pains to explain the urgency of the Telkom sale to occasion spending through Article 223 considering that the transaction was between a willing seller and a willing buyer.
“As the Controller of Budget, you had the constitutional power to refuse to authorize the withdrawal of the funds. What was urgent in this sale that required spending under Article 223 of the Constitution?” posed Mr Kimani.