What you need to know:
- Powerful committee that investigates corruption caught up in its own web of sleaze.
- Members of watchdog team asked to apologise as their colleagues bar them from being named to new committee.
The scandal-plagued Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly has been disbanded.
While sending the committee members packing on Tuesday, Parliament also gave the House majority and minority leaders seven days to pick new members who will replace the team led by Budalang’i MP and ODM Secretary-General Ababu Namwamba.
The House adopted the report and recommendations of the Powers and Privileges Committee, which had investigated the affairs of one of Parliament’s most important oversight committees after a directive by Speaker Justin Muturi.
Mr Namwamba’s team becomes the first watchdog committee to be disbanded on allegations of corruption in the history of the Kenyan Parliament.
They were sent home after an investigation into claims that its members had been using their positions to enrich themselves through extortion and blackmail.
MPs also sanctioned a raft of punitive measures against five of the members of the now defunct team. They will be required to apologise to the rest of the House and will be barred from sittings until they do so.
Barred from the new PAC are its chairman, Mr Namwamba (Budalang’i, ODM), vice-chairperson Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes, TNA), Mr Ahmed Abass (Ijara, ODM), Mr James Bett (Kesses, URP) and Mr Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike, ODM).
The five “made allegations against others, and failed to substantiate their allegations within the period specified under Standing Order 91 (next sitting day)”.
Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso said the five will be expected to apologise to the rest of the House at the sitting that starts this morning.
“None of the members who have been named will be allowed to sit in the House until they tender their apologies,” Dr Laboso ruled.
She said Mr Namwamba would also be required to explain to the House “what game was going on by giving a letter to the Speaker and then withdrawing it”.
This was in relation to Mr Namwamba’s letter to the Speaker requesting to be allowed to stand aside from House and committee sittings, which was taken to the Speaker’s office but then recalled.
Mr Namwamba had borne the brunt of corruption allegations. He had countered them by claiming that it was other members of the PAC who were corrupt, and had been accusing him for refusing to play ball.
Among the most sensational claims coming out of the saga have been allegations that suspended Defence Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo bribed members of the committee to have his name removed from a report on corruption in his former station at the Interior Ministry.
Before the House adopted the report, members of the PAC rallied to criticise the committee chaired by Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi.
They also resumed their arguments and traded accusations once more before Dr Laboso intervened.
Suba MP John Mbadi accused Mr Bett of having started the fight in the committee and then bringing it to the House while debating the report.
Mr Bett got himself into more trouble with his colleagues when he alleged that Mr Cheboi had talked about his political affiliations while discussing the report outside the House.
“He said he wanted to make an example out of this committee. How can you make an example out of a committee? I take great exception to that. He told me he is not in URP, that he is in Kanu,” said Mr Bett before he was forced to withdraw the statements and apologise to the House.
Only Mr Anyanga agreed with the Privileges Committee, saying PAC “must be dissolved like yesterday”.
“We cannot be in a committee where MPs accuse each other of corruption. Personally, if you connect me to corruption, I can even hang myself because that is not me,” he said.
Ms Mbarire was angry at the Privileges Committee.
“I withdrew the allegation and it is minuted. Why again I’m I being asked to apologise to the House and to be barred from the new committee?” asked Ms Mbarire, who accused Mr Cheboi and his colleagues of double standards.
In response, Mr Cheboi said that it was considered improper that Ms Mbarire made a serious allegation and then withdrew it within minutes. “It’s like (hitting) someone and then saying, ‘I am sorry,’” he said.
Mr Cheboi said from his experience in Parliament, MPs would in the past be asked to restrain themselves from making accusations against people outside the House.